Details Still Unclear On White House Virus Expert's Oklahoma Visit

Aug 7, 2020

One day after Gov. Kevin Stitt made conflicting statements regarding a planned visit from White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, no further clarity has emerged from Oklahoma City.

President Donald Trump announced the visit by Birx -- to provide "aggressive, tailored and targeted guidance" on handling the coronavirus -- in a Wednesday press conference.

At a press conference on Thursday, Stitt alternated between saying his office had invited Birx and that they hadn't. The governor said he didn't know what site or sites Birx wanted to visit.

On a virtual installment of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences' Project ECHO discussion series on Friday, Oklahoma state Sen. Greg McCortney (R-Ada) said he had been unable to find out anything further about Birx's visit.

"I am desperately trying to find out what's going on with Dr. Birx's supposed visit to the state, and can happily report that no one seems to have any clue," said McCortney, who also chairs the Senate's health and human services committee.

In a weekly video update, Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma's chief COVID officer, spoke highly of Birx and her public health guidance.

"She is a very, very competent physician, and I know any recommendations that she makes will be based on science and evidence," Bratzler said.

"The White House task force had made recommendations to a number of states that were seeing substantial outbreak in the number of cases to close certain things down like bars," Bratzler said of the recommendations, which were sent to Oklahoma. The governor's office has indicated they are declining to follow the task force's guidance.

"I think the recommendations were solid," Bratzler said.

The governor's office did not respond to a request for further information about Birx's visit.