Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s administration has taken a step forward with COVID-19 transparency, but as StateImpact’s Catherine Sweeney reports, 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 8th-highest rate of test positivity.
On Thursday, Tulsa Mayor GT 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," Bynum said, "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.’”
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.
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