CommunityCORONAVIRUS CRISISElection 2020GovernmentOpinion

Oklahoma State Senators, Are you canning the state health commissioner during a pandemic?

Luther Register Opinion

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The Luther Register does not cover the Oklahoma State Capitol, yet. That leaves me like you when it comes to finding out what is going on at 23rd & Lincoln. My go-to sources are NonDoc and The Oklahoman, Frontier and Oklahoma Watch. Another valuable independent source is Scott Mitchell’s Your Vote Counts and the daily FB Live Shows that focus on the coronavirus. In addition to monitoring various bills and budget talks, there are other issues we should keep tabs on. Case in point, what is happening with the senate and the State Health Commissioner? It’s a real head scratcher.

Luther Register Opinion

On Friday, NonDoc broke the story Rejected: Gary Cox lacks votes for commissioner of health confirmation. So, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee seems to be playing games, not stepping up to give a thumbs up or down on the person leading our state’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

Seems Cox’s credentials are part of the issue. He has a law degree but the “requirements” call for a degree in public health. The guy has been a trailblazer in public health for 40 years, yet the education he was supposed to have learned in a classroom is a deal breaker?

Cox has been at the job since September when the governor appointed him to the position, pending a senate vote. In that time, Cox rolled up his sleeves like he did when he led the Tulsa County Health Department and the OKC/County Health Department and got some work done. Some of that work in his short six months or so on the job involved modernizing some outdated data systems and improving service to the public … all while a pandemic loomed.

Since the coronavirus crisis hit, we have seen Cox out front responding to the needs and shouldering responsibility for antiquated systems. The state was not equipped with testing, equipment or an ability to communicate well. But that situation improves daily.

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The State Senate wants to change course while we are still in the midst of this state emergency? What is their Plan B?

If Cox was a problem, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee should have dealt with it in the weeks of the legislative session before the Covid-19 crisis changed everything.

Instead, they are moving toward taking no action on the appointment, and possibly adjourning for the year that they must do by May 31. The calendar has almost three weeks worth of legislative opportunity to address this issue, and not leave Oklahomans hanging.

Even a conditional appointment by the committee would do much to improve public confidence in the work of the senate, and allow Oklahomans some security that its health department is not losing leadership in the middle of a pandemic.

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