Oklahoma’s top epidemiologist reassigned amid outbreak
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s top epidemiologist is being reassigned in a move the state’s health agency says will help them better coordinate between local responders and health care experts, particularly in rural areas.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health said state epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed is being reassigned “to provide epidemiological expertise to Oklahoma stakeholders.”
The announcement came late Thursday as the state struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Oklahoma has reported 49 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, including one person who died. Eight were hospitalized as of Friday morning.
The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with preexisting health problems.
The agency also announced the hiring of a new interim epidemiologist, Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, who has a PhD in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina and has worked as an epidemic intelligence service officer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Laurence Burnsed is a valued member of the Oklahoma State Department of Health,” said agency spokeswoman Jamie Dukes. “(Oklahoma Health) Commissioner (Gary) Cox has deployed Laurence’s expertise to enhance the agency’s support to counties and our efforts to reach all Oklahomans.
“Simply put, this is a positive move to expand public health expertise for the state.”
The straight-talking Burnsed has appeared at several news conferences with Gov. Kevin Stitt to help explain the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this week, he noted that Oklahoma, like many places in the country, had a shortage of testing kits and supplies.
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