Oklahoma's State Department of Health will be shelling out about $15,000 a month to handle most of the state’s COVID-19 media and open records requests through the end of the year, which seems like a lot of money to us to pay someone whose job isn't focusing on the health of Oklahomans.
Agency officials agreed to pay Saxum, a marketing communications agency, an initial $60,000 fee to handle media and social media support, content creation and other communication needs related to the ongoing pandemic from Sept. 3-Dec. 31. If they end up paying the $15,000 a month for a year, that's a whopping $180,000. But it could be even more.
Saxum will bill the state for hourly work, including expenses. Its hourly rates range from $61 an hour for a graduate fellow to $354 an hour for the chief executive officer, according to the contract.
The Health Department's communications team has been spending much of its time on COVID-19 issues and not as much on other issues like the flu, community and family health, disease and prevention, and other health priorities.
It seems that hiring additional staff for the communications department at the State Department of Health would be more cost effective. That would allow current staff to go back to pre-pandemic duties.
As long as the information coming out of Saxum is transparent about what the health department is doing in relation to COVID-19, that's one thing. But if the firm puts a marketing "spin" on the information to make the health department look good, then why bother? Oklahomans want the clear, unvarnished truth.
Maybe that money should go toward what the State Department of Health does — focus on the health of Oklahomans.