Republican lawmaker’s resolution urges removal of transgender Secretary of Health

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking at a virtual press conference. Courtesy Gov. Tom Wolf Flickr.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Russ Diamond, a Republican representing Lebanon County in the southeastern portion of the state, has introduced a resolution calling for the immediate resignation or removal of Dr. Rachel Levine as the state’s health secretary.

Levine, a graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, is the highest-ranking transgender official in Pennsylvania state government. Gov. Tom Wolf has been a staunch supporter of Levine, calling her work on the pandemic “phenomenal.”

On May 19, Diamond introduced House Resolution 879. which has 22 co-sponsors, all Republicans. The resolution blasts Levine’s policy of allowing nursing homes to accept from hospitals COVID-19 patients that are stable. 

“For the vulnerable Pennsylvanians residing in those facilities, it’s like they were being forced to live within a ticking time bomb,” Diamond said in a press release accompanying the resolution.

As of presstime, House Resolution 879 was pending in the state House of Representatives Committee on Health. No vote had been scheduled on the resolution. 

During a May 21 press conference, Levine said federal guidance directed nursing homes to accept stable COVID-19 patients. “That was federal guidance, the same guidance that almost all other states have followed,” Levine stated. “The vast majority of those patients contracted COVID-19 in the [nursing-home] facility. Because they got sicker, they were transferred to the hospitals and then, when they were better, they were transferred back to their home, which is the [nursing-home] facility — with specific guidance about cohorting them to avoid infecting other patients.  At the same time, there was significant concern about overwhelming the hospitals and making sure that patients couldn’t just stay in the hospital — because we would need those hospital beds. So I have no questions or concerns about the initial guidance. We are continuing to look at all of our guidance and to see if anything needs to change. But that was the federal guidance at the time which we followed.”

Levine was asked during a May 19 press conference about Diamond’s call for her resignation. She replied: “I have no specific reaction to the representative. But what I can say is [that] I remain committed to protecting the residents of Pennsylvania, wherever they live, wherever they go, whether it is in a facility, whether it’s at home, whether it’s in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, Erie or Harrisburg, whether it’s in their communities, and whether they agree with me or not. And I will do everything I possibly can to keep them safe.”

Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for Levine, issued this statement regarding House Resolution 879:
“Dr. Levine continues to ensure that Pennsylvania residents’ safety and well-being are the department’s first priority and [she] remains laser-focused on providing the most up-to-date information to Pennsylvanians, especially during this public health crisis.”

The co-sponsors of House Resolution 879 are:  David R. Millard (R-Columbia Co.); Francis X. Ryan (R-Lebanon Co.); Jim Gregory (R-Blair Co.); Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton Co., Centre Co.);  R. Lee James (R-Venango Co., Butler Co.); Cris Dush (R-Jefferson Co., Indiana Co.); Martin T. Causer (R-McKean Co., Cameron Co., Potter Co.); Marci Mustello (R-Butler Co.);  Bud Cook (R-Washington Co., Fayette Co.); Eric Davanzo (R-Westmoreland Co.); Dawn W. Keefer (R-York Co., Cumberland Co.); Aaron Bernstine (R-Lawrence Co., Beaver Co., Butler Co.);  Tommy Sankey (R-Clearfield Co., Cambria Co.); Jeffrey P. Pyle (R-Armstrong Co., Butler Co., Indiana Co.); Rich Irvin (R-Huntingdon Co., Centre Co., Mifflin Co.); Daryl D. Metcalfe (R-Butler Co.); Brad Roae (R-Crawford Co., Erie Co.); David H. Zimmerman (R-Lancaster Co.); Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware Co., Chester Co.); Steven C. Mentzer (R-Lancaster Co.); Matthew D. Dowling (R-Fayette Co., Somerset Co.); Ryan Warner (R-Fayette Co., Westmoreland Co.).