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Oklahoma health commissioner suddenly resigns

Governor's office

Oklahoma State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye has resigned.

The state health department announced his resignation late Friday afternoon but did not give a reason for Frye's departure. The governor's office provided a copy of Frye's resignation letter, which was dated Oct. 22.

"With Oklahoma’s current COVID-19 trends continuing to decrease, our state is now set on a path to recovery. At this time, OSDH is transitioning from a pandemic response to endemic surveillance and the agency’s transformation is well on its way. As Oklahoma and OSDH move into this next phase, I believe it is time for me to move forward as well," Frye wrote.

Frye’s resignation came after the health department confirmed it now has a process for nonbinary Oklahomans to request their birth certificates be marked as neither male nor female. That process is part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit that named Frye and other health department officials.

Top elected Republicans in the state decried the settlement on Thursday as agency overreach, with Gov. Kevin Stitt calling it the work of "rogue activists." Frye said the settlement was reached by former Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office in May.

Stitt appointed Frye health commissioner in May 2020 and praised him for his work on Oklahoma's COVID-19 response.

"Dr. Frye provided steady leadership during Oklahoma’s COVID response from his role in surge planning on the Governor’s Solution Task Force to guiding our vaccine rollout that was Top Ten in the nation as Commissioner of Health," Stitt said in a statement. "With cases and hospitalizations down 60% in recent weeks, Dr. Frye has positioned the Oklahoma State Department of Health well to continue managing COVID effectively and I am grateful for his service to our state during an unprecedented time."

Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed will lead the agency on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is hired.

"In my tenure with OSDH, I have always admired the resilience of our staff and their commitment to remaining focused on serving Oklahomans. I look forward to continue working side-by-side with them as we continue to move forward," Reed said in a statement.

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