OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As daily COVID-19 averages are back on the upswing in Oklahoma and around the country, some health experts are asking why isn’t the $30 million Oklahoma Pandemic Center leading the way with information.

In the fall of 2020, the state’s public health lab moved out of a building near downtown Oklahoma City up to Stillwater. There it was supposed to be joined by the Oklahoma pandemic center, but officials wonder what exactly the center is doing.

“Oklahoma ranks last in the United States; we have ranked last every week in variant testing since April of 2021, despite the fact that the Oklahoma Pandemic Center’s core mission is variant testing. But it has performed no variant tests at all,” said Dr. George Monks.

The former head of the Oklahoma State Medical Association is talking about the new $30 million Oklahoma pandemic center in Stillwater.

“We want a good bang for our buck, but its costs $30 million bucks and we have gotten no bang. At this point it seems like the Oklahoma Pandemic Center is a ghost,” said Monks.

CARES Act money was used to create the state of the art facility.

“I find no scientific footprint of any testing that is being done, or any research, and it’s concerning,” said Monks.

Photo goes with story
Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence, image KFOR

We asked the Oklahoma State Health Department for an interview and a tour of the new facility. They turned down both of our requests, but did send us this statement, saying in part:

“The state’s Public Health Lab (PHL) continues to serve Oklahomans daily through services like routine testing of a variety of diseases, newborn screenings and sequencing, plus an array of other laboratory testing.

The OPCIE serves as a vision for enhancing the laboratory and clinical practices that create improved public health responses.”

OSDH

“That’s a very expensive vision,” said Monks.

Monks is also questioning the Pandemic Center’s finances when it comes to management.

“We have been paying multiple CEOs and a completely different management company to manage the Oklahoma Pandemic Center, yet there has been no accomplishments from it,” said Monks

In their statement, OSDH officials said, “The PHL is managed by Prairie One with oversight and partnership by OSDH.”

On top the CARES Act money, “Oklahoma Watch” is reporting that $141 million in ARPA funds have been requested by the Pandemic Center from the Oklahoma State Legislature.

“I don’t know what is happening. It’s a real head scratcher. We owe it to Oklahoma taxpayers to spend money wisely,” said Monks

Monks says he is still excited about the potential of the center, but says the facility needs to show results.