State officials announce they’re establishing the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence in Stillwater, and the state’s public health laboratory will move there with it.
The center’s focus will be bringing together state and tribal, public and private, and urban and rural resources so researchers can get ahead of the next potential infectious disease outbreak.
"But we also need to be doing that for animal health, and we need to be doing that for our agricultural response. This center will have not only testing capabilities but the ability to have mobile units that can be deployed that will allow us to actually store specimens," said State Secretary of Science and Innovation Elizabeth Pollard.
Interim State Health Commissioner Lance Frye said the COVID-19 pandemic helped get the new center rolling.
"This crisis has brought to the forefront different sections that we could see were antiquated and need to be fixed, and the public health lab is one of those areas," Frye said.
Frye has said outdated public health infrastructure hindered the state’s initial response to COVID-19, especially when it came to early testing.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is moving to a new headquarters in Oklahoma City that won't include the state's public health lab. The state will use the existing $9.5 million public health lab budget, up to $58.5 million in bond funding and any available federal coronavirus relief funds to build the Stillwater facility.