TULSA, Okla. — The leader of the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said in a letter Wednesday that Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt ignored guidelines laid out by the White House to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. James E. Clyburn sent letters to Vice President Mike Pence, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and the governors of Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, calling on them to comply with “science-based protective measures recommended in a report prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.”
That report hasn’t been officially released to the public.
“I am writing to request information about the private guidance the Administration has provided to Oklahoma and whether you plan to implement those recommendations and take other critical actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus across the state,” Clyburn writes in his letter to Stitt.
“Although the Task Force has apparently provided Oklahoma with private suggestions concerning public health measures designed to stop the spread of the virus, the state has not implemented many of these recommendations—and instead appears to be following the contradictory public messaging coming from the Administration.”
According to Clyburn, Oklahoma is complying with five recommendations from White House including limits on large gatherings to 10 people or fewer in red zones and 25 people or fewer in yellow zones; the closure of bars; the reduction of indoor dining to 25% of restaurant capacity; the closure or capacity limits on gyms; and mask requirements for businesses in red and yellow zones.
Stitt has said in his updates about the COVID-19 situation in Oklahoma that he has not considered mandating masks or rolling back the state’s reopening plans.
“Failure to comply is allowing the virus to spread, prolonging and exacerbating the public health crisis facing the state,” Clyburn wrote to Stitt.
“I urge you to act quickly and mandate science-based public health measures.”
The subcommittee wants the documents from Stitt “regarding formal or informal guidance and public health recommendations provided by the White House Task Force to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Oklahoma” by Aug. 12.
The documents are expected to include: “(a) detailed description of any decisions made or public health measures that were implemented or rescinded in Oklahoma as a result of any communications or guidance referenced in Request 1; and (a) detailed description of your current plans to implement additional public health measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.”
Stitt responded to the accusations in a statement late Wednesday:
“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.”— Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt