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Biden pick for Dept of Health reportedly removed mom before ordering covid patients into nursing homes

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Ten years ago, in one of their more subtle hit pieces, the Democrats critiqued Congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan with an ad depicting the Wisconsin Republican shoving a wheelchair-bound old lady off a cliff.

In light of President-elect Joe Biden’s selection for assistant health secretary, the GOP may want to repurpose the ad for a new decade – perhaps with a woman rushing a wheelchair-bound old lady out of a nursing home ahead of the coronavirus.

Biden on Tuesday announced Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s state health secretary, to be a top lieutenant at the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement, Biden said, “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Historic, for sure. Levine is a transgender woman. If confirmed, she would be the highest-profile transgender figure in the federal government.

Democrats will surely focus on making that the issue as the Senate conducts hearings on her, noting that Republicans in Pennsylvania supported her elevation to the top post, and attacking those who now object as bigots.

That’s because with COVID-19 still the most serious public health crisis confronting the nation, Democrats will want to avoid any mention of how Levine bungled protection for vulnerable elderly people in her state – except for her own mother.

Much like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Levine ordered nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to admit senior citizens, either as new patients or those returning from hospital stays, even as the virus ravaged those sites.

“We are seeing community spread of this virus in most areas of Pennsylvania. And we need to make sure that our loved ones in nursing homes stay safe. And that is why actually I am not able to visit my mother, either,” Levine said back in March.

But not long after that she quietly relocated her own 95-year-old out of a situation that she had deemed safe for thousands of other elderly Pennsylvanians.

“My mother requested, and my sister and I as her children complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine explained.

Yet many of those who did not have the state health secretary as a child did not fare so well.

Last month, when the federal government released a list of the 10 long-term care facilities with the most COVID deaths, Pennsylvania claimed six of them.

Last week AARP reported that Pennsylvania ranked fourth in terms of the most nursing-home deaths per 100 residents, trailing only the Dakotas and Colorado. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s Health Department’s website showed that 10,041 people had died in nursing homes and similar facilities, or 52 percent of the state’s total. For comparison, Florida, which has the second-largest number share of residents over age 65, reported 8,773 of its COVID victims have been nursing home patients.

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