Pennsylvania health secretary swings back at transphobic harassment before updating COVID-19 battle

RAW: Pennsylvania Secretary of Health provides coronavirus update

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Before giving an update on the fight against COVID-19 in the state at a news conference Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health personally addressed the transphobic and anti-LGBTQ harassment she’s been facing while leading the state through the pandemic.

“While these individuals think that they are expressing displeasure with me, they are, in fact, hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffer from these current demonstrations of harassment,” Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals.”

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Levine said the LGBTQ community has made progress under Gov. Tom Wolf.

Following her personal message, Levine said there have been 1,120 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide number to 109,384 total cases since the outbreak began. There have been 7,146 deaths attributed to the virus as well.

Levine said she was pleased that all 693 skilled nursing facilities across the state have complied with a June 8 order to test all residents and staff for coronavirus. She said that includes approximately 84,000 nursing home residents. There have been 2,300 shipments of PPE to nursing facilities across the state, including 306,944 gowns, 336,559 face shields, 1,023,800 gloves, more than 2.8 million N95 masks and 1,175,000 surgical masks.

According to a news release, Levine said the goal for the universal testing program was “to better understand the scope of how COVID-19 has impacted these vulnerable communities.” The information would help to “rapidly detect asymptomatic positive residents and staff” and then craft policies to keep others safe.

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Also at the news conference, Levine was asked about the COVID-19 situation in regards to Major League Baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays were strongly considering PNC Park in Pittsburgh to stage their home games after not being allowed to use their own facilities in Canada. State officials ultimately denied their request. However, a reporter asked how the Miami Marlins, which is dealing with more than a dozen players testing positive, were allowed to play in Philadelphia. Levine said the concern when that decision was made involved more players and another team coming to the Pittsburgh area, which was seeing major daily spikes in COVID-19 cases. Levine said the decision had nothing to do with how many cases were in the Toronto area, but just that another group of people would present another challenge.

Levine was also asked about the statewide order limiting bar and restaurant capacity to 25%. She said there are no plans currently to roll that policy back as the numbers continue to increase.

State leaders give update on school reopening plans

“We are working with the schools now. We’re going to be looking at all of the data,” Levine said.

Levine announced there is not a specific threshold for the state to meet in terms of getting kids back in class. She said the number one way to get kids back to school is to wear a mask.

“That will help prevent community spread, decrease our case counts and that would be the best way to help us get our kids back to school,” she said.