Gov. Wolf and Rachel Levine’s Bumbled and Overbearing COVID-19 Policies Could Cost Joe Biden Pennsylvania and Therefore the White House
Joe Biden may be a native son of the Keystone State, but the botched, political mess that Gov. Tom Wolf and his transgender Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, have made in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic could cost Biden his home state, and therefore the White House.
From the get-go, many Pennsylvanians have been unhappy about Wolf’s unilateral power seizure and heavy-handed mandates – particularly rural and blue-collar Democrats and independents, who have been hit hardest by the economic lockdown.
Adding to this discomfort are the daily press briefings with Levine, who is celebrated by the cosmopolitan press and city Democrats for her gender identity switch, but which doesn’t play as well among normal people – both Democrats and independents.
Regardless of whether progressives label the ruralites and blue-collar Democrats and independents “transphobic” – the political reality is Levine’s gender identity switch is a political 800-pound gorilla for anyone not on the social justice bandwagon.
“People aren’t comfortable with Levine. It creeps people out. It’s unnatural,” said a Pennsylvania Republican campaign insider. “Of course, we’re going to use this. We don’t even have to say anything explicitly. Just Levine’s picture and its association with policies everyone hates. Who wants to be lectured by that? Who would leave their children alone with that? We’re going to hit the policies. That’s our primary target. But Levine is a gift to us because no one – not even gay people – are comfortable with that.”
Which brings up another problem – it’s increasingly clear that Levine is not qualified for the office of Secretary of Health. She was a pediatrician, yes, but with no real experience in public health policy.
Rather, her appointment was one of two ploys by Wolf’s administration, or possibly a combination of both.
- It was an attempt by the progressive wing of the Democratic power structure to normalize transgenderism by grooming one for higher public office later by getting Levine experience in what would, in normal times, be a public office that doesn’t get much time in the public.
- It was an attempt by Wolf to shore up his progressive credentials and get additional enthusiasm from the LGBTQ wing of the Democrat party.
In either case, Levine was never meant to be the face of the Wolf administration, much less in the public spotlight daily with reports on followed closely by the general public throughout Pennsylvania. But Levine now is.
This case is supported by the celebratory, identity-based (as opposed to performance based) coverage that Levine was given from the time of her appointment in more cosmopolitan and gay-oriented publications in Philadelphia and Pittsburg, while at the same time coverage of Levine was sparse in the rest of the state.
It gives the appearance they were lauding her gender identity switch for the cosmopolitans while keeping her in the closet for those of us in rural Pennsylvania.
Even today, Levine and her supporters spend much of their time being outraged over the occasional radio host who calls her by the “incorrect pronouns” – more effort it appears than in getting good data on the extent of the COVID-19 cases in the state.
Even setting aside Levine’s unsettling transgenderism, there is the question of her incompetence and hypocrisy.
Even as policy dictated by her office was funneling COVID-19 infected elderly patients into nursing homes, Levine pulled her own elderly mother out of an assisted living facility and put her in a 5-star hotel.
As a result, Levine’s mother was safe, while now we know that 68% of all COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania have been among the elderly.
The worst part is the heavy toll of dead senior citizens didn’t have to happen at all.
Those deaths are the result of Levine’s incompetence.
As SpotlightPA reported last week, Pennsylvania had a plan to protect its nursing homes that was robust and aggressive.
In mid-March, before the coronavirus had widely taken hold across the state, emergency response officials drafted a three-page blueprint for quick strike teams of medical professionals that would respond to facilities as soon as a few positive cases were confirmed.
The teams — made of epidemiologists, nurses, emergency management personnel, and medical experts — would show up at a facility within six hours of a call for help, according to internal documents obtained by Spotlight PA. Within two hours, they would complete an assessment of the facility’s needs and create a plan to address them.
The teams would train nursing home staff on infection prevention protocols, provide personal protective equipment, help identify secluded quarantine areas, gather information for visitor and staff contact tracing, confirm a staffing plan, and more, according to the documents.
The quick response plan was circulated within the health department, with emails showing staff nurses and others were asked to volunteer. In the third week of March, it was shared with providers, said Zachary Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents more than 400 long-term care facilities.
But the plan was never fully implemented, and a similar — though far more limited — effort wasn’t activated until mid-April, long after major outbreaks had already taken hold.
“This was being touted as the answer to the epidemic,” Shamberg said. “This was the state support we were counting on.”
“I have to believe if these teams had been ready and prepared, we’d be in a much better place than we are today.”
The outbreak of COVID-19 was always feared to be particularly acute among older populations in Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest numbers of nursing homes in the U.S. But a growing chorus of providers, advocates, lawmakers, families, and residents now say that state officials were too slow to act and are still not doing enough to help.
In the meantime, some facilities have become death traps.
As of Friday, state officials reported infections at 522 facilities and 2,458 deaths, which is 68% of all COVID-19 fatalities statewide. Roughly 900 new deaths in these facilities have been reported in just the past week. Despite the alarming numbers, the administration has stuck by its modest goals for increased statewide testing and has not committed to wider testing at nursing homes.
Levine’s role in dictating policy that Wolf enacted has put the state on a lockdown that is not supported by the science. In fact, the studies Levine relied on have been proven to be fatally flawed.
The support for the lockdown was based on modeling. Not only has such modelling been extravagantly wrong before in predicting the course of viral epidemics, but it says nothing about anything else. In this case, it has been fouled up from the start by poor data and flawed assumptions. The data on virulence was hugely biased in favor of severe cases. There was an assumption that 80 percent of the population would rapidly catch the disease, when in fact 15 percent seems nearer the mark.
We were told that the health care experts say that stay-at-home orders and lockdowns were the best solution. According to experts at our own University of Pittsburgh Medical Center say that isn’t the case at all.
Also, for medical insight beyond Levine and Wolf, here are 10 scientific and medical reasons to End the Lockdown Now from Dr. John Lee, a professor of pathology and a former British National Health Services consultant pathologist.
Dr. Samir Farhat, a New York physician, notes that the lockdown in that city, despite being the epicenter of the outbreak, is actually worse than the effect of opening it up.
Also noteworthy in New York, the number of cases of COVID-19 deaths are being exaggerated for political purposes, according to the coroners who are dealing with this.
When Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia reopened his state, CNN and the rest of the panic media predicted a new outbreak was imminent and a doubling of deaths within weeks.
But it didn’t happen that way. This week Georgia celebrated the state’s lowest number of hospitalized novel coronavirus patients and the fewest number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators on Saturday, 15 days since the Republican loosened lockdown restrictions in the face of persistent attacks from the mainstream media and the public disapproval of President Donald Trump.
Respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 “typically appear an average of 5-6 days after exposure, but may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure,” per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UC San Diego Health notes.
“Today marks the lowest number of COVID-19 positive patients currently hospitalized statewide (1,203) since hospitals began reporting this data on April 8th,” Kemp posted to Twitter on Saturday. “Today also marks the lowest total of ventilators in use (897 with 1,945 available). We will win this fight together!”
Lancaster Blog contacted the Lancaster County Democrats and the Biden for President campaign and the story will be updated if either provide comment.
A few conservative Democrats in Lancaster County I spoke to wanted to remain unnamed, because they know they would be pilloried by the progressive members in their party.
“Look, this lockdown is killing the economy and despite what you hear from a few outspoken elected Democrats, the rank and file do not want this. They are not happy. These are people who need to get back to work,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s going to get Republicans out stronger – I’m more worried that no matter how much enthusiasm there is to get rid of Trump, we’re going to have a lot on our side that won’t bother to show up, or will vote Biden but then vote GOP down ticket.”
“This is bad for Democrats (in the state) and it could be a big problem for Biden come November,” another lifelong Democrat said. “I have problem with Levine myself, but I know how a lot of Democrats outside Philadelphia feel when they see her out there in the public eye.”