OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus today held a press conference to call on Gov. Kevin Stitt to create a bipartisan, expert-led task force to end the COVID-19 Pandemic in Oklahoma.
The House Minority Caucus recommends at a minimum the task force consists of members of leadership from all four legislative caucuses, public health experts from Oklahoma’s two largest counties, Interim Commissioner of Health Lance Fry, and State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Democrats want the task force to regularly brief the public on information attained and publicly provide the governor with recommendations on how to proceed.
“The worst thing you can do as a public official is to lose the trust of your constituents,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said. “Unfortunately, by hiding information from citizens and mischaracterizing recommendations from the White House, the governor has shown an unwillingness to be forthright about this pandemic. This task force would provide some much-needed transparency regarding Oklahoma’s efforts to protect our citizens.”
Democrats cited several decisions by the governor or his administration that lack transparency:
- Hiding White House COVID Task Force information from communities as many city councils were deciding how best to protect their citizens.
- Refusing to follow the recommendations of the White House Task Force.
- Creating a color-coded COVID Alert System that is less effective than the one used by the CDC.
- Not reporting positive rapid antigen tests with daily COVID-19 numbers.
- Not identifying the date of COVID deaths to help paint a better picture of how the pandemic is affecting Oklahoma.
- Blatantly misrepresenting the visit from White House Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.
“We aren’t trying to take the ball out of the governor’s hands because he messed up once,” State Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said. “This is about the impact to our constituents and communities across the state. The pattern of deception and misleading the public from the governor’s office is hampering our state’s ability to respond to this pandemic.”
The most recent White House Task Force recommendations sent to the governor were dated Aug. 23. After pressure from both the media and public, the governor’s office released the recommendations on Aug. 26. That document showed that Oklahoma’s positivity rate was currently eighth in the country.
“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.
We understand the governor currently has a task force, but Oklahomans deserve their own. As our positivity rate climbs into the top ten in the country, it’s clear the governor’s task force is not working. It’s also not providing information to the public. By bringing bipartisan voices to the table, we can create an environment that is conducive to transparency and producing better results for our citizens.”