Communications & Public Affairs
June 2, 2020

Wes Carter, Press Secretary
Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus

Media Reports Raise Questions Regarding OSDH, Minority Leader Responds

OKLAHOMA CITY — House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, issued the following statement in response to recent reports regarding the Oklahoma State Department of Health retaining former Interim Commissioner of Health Gary Cox in a six-week advisory role, and also the governor’s decision to stop releasing COVID-19 data.

“Once again, the governor is thumbing his nose at the Legislature instead of working with us to generate better outcomes for Oklahomans,” Virgin said. “The Senate, who is controlled by the governor’s own party, took the rare step to not approve one of the governor’s appointees. Instead of taking the loss, the governor created a position where the appointee will be paid more than $22,000 for a month and a half of work advising the new commissioner of health how to do the job — a job that the state Senate said Cox wasn’t qualified to do. It is petty, bizarre, and a complete misuse of taxpayer money.

“This information, paired with the announcement that OSDH is no longer going to release some COVID-19 data, starts to draw into question what exactly is going on at the department of health? Why is the governor adamant that this person stays in the loop, and why are we decreasing public health transparency during a pandemic? None of this increases our constituent’s confidence in state government.

“For months now, the governor has talked about trusting Oklahomans to make the right choices for their families and themselves. How can we expect them to do that if we stop giving them the most current data? You don’t get partial credit for transparency. Governor Stitt needs to live up to his press conference bravado and restore the data.”