One of the most horrifying things about the ongoing coronavirus “crisis” in Pennsylvania is the situation in the state’s nursing homes. While Governor Wolf remains obsessed with punishing small businesses for opening and policing family gatherings and backyard barbecues, he has grotesquely mismanaged the true threat the disease poses to residents of long-term care facilities. The risk of death from the coronavirus for the average Pennsylvanian is minuscule, but the risk of death to nursing home residents is extreme. Cases of the virus in nursing homes have skyrocketed in Pennsylvania, with 2611 of the state’s 3,806 deaths being residents of such facilities accounting for 68% of all COVID-19 deaths.
Wolf almost guaranteed a disaster when he mandated early on in the outbreak that nursing homes must take in coronavirus patients. This decision, like that of Governor Cuomo in New York, was catastrophic. Elderly patients, the majority of whom had significant underlying health conditions, were now to be confined in facilities never designed for this purpose, in close proximity to highly contagious carriers of the coronavirus.
The result was predictable and horrifying.
As bad as that is, though, it gets worse because as Wolf was taking actions that would virtually guarantee the death of many of our elderly and depriving families of grandparents, parents and dear family friends, his Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine was moving her own 95-year-old mother out of the nursing home where she had been living and into a hotel.
You read that correctly. Dr. Levine, who was daily assuring Pennsylvanians that all was well, and the situation was under control, then acted to move her own family member out of the very same nursing facilities into which her boss had mandated coronavirus cases be accepted.
This is not ‘rumor.’ Dr. Levine has admitted she took the action and, strikingly enough, appears to feel no guilt about it. “My mother requested and my sister and I, as her children, complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine said in a news conference, according to Harrisburg’s WHTM-TV.
“My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”Rachel Levine via Harrisburg WHTM-TV.
Governor Wolf’s response has been predictable. He has ignored the issue and stood behind Levine.
“Dr. Levine has done a phenomenal job of making sure that we do what we need to do in keeping Pennsylvanians safe,” he said. “I think it’s a tribute to her that Pennsylvania has actually done a better job than many of our surrounding states in terms of the infection rate and the death rate.”Governor Tom Wolf, defending actions of his Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.
The arrogance behind both the Health Secretary’s actions and the Governor’s support of her is breathtaking. This is the same Health Secretary who has stood up day after day in front of the people of the Commonwealth throughout this crisis and assured us that we were all in this together and that we would come through this as a “community.”
“What we are trying to do is to ask people to stay very calm and to not fear. I’m a positive and optimistic person and have hope for the future. We’re going to come out of this hopefully stronger…I think it’s important for our community to stand together and really, for all of us to stand together because nothing [else] shows us how everyone is the same in the face of a pandemic like this.”
There has already been one rally in Harrisburg demanding that Dr. Levine step down. It should be the first of many all across this great state, and if that demand is not met then those rallies ought to start calling for the Governor to step down as well.
The men and women who serve the people of this state in Harrisburg are public servants. That term means exactly what it sounds like it means. They serve the people. They are not rulers. They are not better, more privileged, or entitled to preferential treatment.
Particularly in times like these, our public servants should be setting the example. They should be taking the same risks, subjecting themselves to the same dangers and challenges, and letting us know that we really are all “in this together.”
What Dr. Levine’s behavior tells us all emphatically is that in far too many cases this is not true. These individuals do not believe they work for us. They do not believe that they are in office to serve. They perceive themselves as some sort of privileged caste, above the masses, and entitled therefore to special privileges and special considerations.
Dr. Levine did not hesitate one moment before moving her own mother out of a nursing home and into a hotel in order to escape the carnage that would ensue. She felt not a moment of remorse when the matter came to light and she was criticized. If she were sent back in time and had the decision to make all over again, she would do the same thing. She would rush her own family member to safety and leave yours to die.
Levine should step down now. If the Governor can’t find his spine and recover his moral compass he should follow her in short order.
We deserve leaders who set the example. We deserve leaders worthy of the people they represent.