Gov. Stitt Responds To House Subcommittee Reprimand Of COVID-19 Safety Measures

Wednesday, July 29th 2020, 3:01 pm
By: Ryan Welton, News On 6, News9 , Kristin Wells


Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt responded Wednesday to a reprimand from a federal House subcommittee that accused state leaders of not doing enough to fight COVID-19.

Governor Stitt issued a response to the letter and said, “leveraging the White House’s initial methodology, OSDH deployed a similar version of a COVID-19 risk alert map to empower local leaders to make critical decisions based on the unique dynamics in their counties. The regions of concern have stepped up to implement more stringent public health policies and guidance for businesses that take into consideration population density and the data from local contact tracing efforts. OSDH has not identified a “red risk” county based on its four gating criteria for how COVID-19 is impacting Oklahoma’s healthcare system. This is the right approach, and the State will continue to deploy transparent data, tracing and testing support, PPE, and additional resources to inform and mitigate areas of concern. We must work together as one state to protect our health and our economy. Wash your hands frequently; watch your distance by staying 6 feet apart from others; and wear a mask when distancing is difficult.”

The chairman of a House subcommittee called on Oklahoma and Gov. Kevin Stitt to comply with the advice given to the state by the federal government in the fight against COVID-19.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) sent letters of rebuke to leaders in several states, including Stitt in Oklahoma, for not heeding the suggestions prepared in a recent unpublished report for the White House Coronavirus Task Force,. The report identified 21 states that are in the 'red zone,' an indication of spikes in new cases of COVID-19. The report found that of the 21 'red zone' states, at least 17 of them are not following at least one of the federal government's recommendations.

Oklahoma is one of those states.

“This unpublished report recommends far stronger public health measures than the Trump Administration has called for in public—including requiring face masks, closing bars, and strictly limiting gatherings,” Rep. Clyburn said. “Yet many states do not appear to be following these unpublished recommendations and are instead pursuing policies more consistent with the Administration’s contradictory public statements downplaying the seriousness of the threat. In light of the alarming surge of coronavirus cases and deaths across the country, I am troubled that the Administration would seek to keep public health recommendations secret rather than publicly communicating the importance of these measures to the American people and ensuring they are followed nationwide.”

Oklahoma City-County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Patrick McGough talked Tuesday with News 9's Erica Rankin about the phone calls Oklahoma has received from Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“There were five different cities that she was trying to work with (Monday) on the call,” Dr. McGough said.

Dr. McGough said each of the cities on the call was experiencing a surge in hospitalizations or cases.

“They did have a concern about that, but she did mention that she felt like we were managing things well but wanted to offer up guidance,” Dr. McGough said.

Dr. McGough said Dr. Birx laid out four tips she said evidence showed to be just as powerful as sheltering in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The tips are masking at all times, decreasing the amount of people inside dining rooms and restaurants, cutting back on bars serving alcohol and social distancing.

“Our concern is if we don’t take these measures, we will have to go back to something that we don’t want to have to do like sheltering at home or safer at home,” Dr. McGough said. “What we would rather see is people out and about and enjoying businesses being open.”

The letters from Rep. Clyburn and the subcommittee can be found below.

Click here to read today’s letter to Vice President Pence and Dr. Birx.
Click below to read today’s letter to governors:
Governor Brian Kemp
Governor J. Kevin Stitt
Governor Ron DeSantis
Governor Bill Lee