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Oklahoma House Democrats Criticize Gov. Stitt's COVID-19 Response, Call For Bipartisan Task Force

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaks at a press conference on August 27, 2020.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt's administration has taken a step forward with COVID-19 transparency, but other officials continue to raise concerns.

For several months, the White House Coronavirus task force has been compiling state reports and sending them to governors. The Center for Public Integrity first obtained and published one of those reports in mid July. Since then, Oklahoma public health and local officials have raised concerns that the Stitt Administration wasn’t sharing the information.

Last week, Stitt announced the state would begin sharing the documents. They’re now available on the State Department of Health’s COVID-19 website.

The most recent iteration of that report, released last week, placed Oklahoma in the red zone for its case counts. It also said Oklahoma had the nation's eighth-highest rate of test positivity.

On Thursday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he and his team have been reviewing the now-public documents. Until recently, he said, they had only known one, which had been in the media. That changed during a closed-door meeting that Stitt held last sunday with a dozen Oklahoma officials and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force.

"The real surprise for me was when I was in the meeting with Dr. Birx and she said, and this was on a Sunday, ‘Oh hey tomorrow we’re going to issue the eighth one of these reports to come out.’,” Bynum said.

Democratic state lawmakers criticized Stitt Thursday morning. House Democratic Leader Emily Virgin held a press conference to decry the governor’s handling of the pandemic, calling for a new task force on COVID-19 with more experts and bipartisan representation.

"House Democrats wholeheartedly object to Governor Stitt's belief that COVID-19 has to be Oklahoma's 'new normal,'" Virgin said. "We believe that Oklahomans can beat this pandemic, but we are trending in the wrong direction. This task force is an opportunity to reverse that trend and end COVID-19 in Oklahoma."


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Catherine Sweeney was StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter from 2020 to 2023.
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