White House press secretary Jen Psaki needs to brush up on basic information. She was asked a pointed question Monday on if the Biden administration still supports the nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary given her role in Pennsylvania’s nursing home scandal.
Ms. Psaki reacted as if she had no idea what the reporter was talking about.
“I’d have to look into more specifics of the details, because it does not sound at all to me that her scenario is similar to the scenario in New York, but we’ll follow up with you if we have more to offer,” Ms. Psaki replied, avoiding the question and giving no further details.
Here are the specifics, Ms. Psaki.
Dr. Levine, Pennsylvania’s former health secretary signed an order on March 18, 2020, for the state’s nursing homes to accept patients who previously had or were hospitalized with the coronavirus. The decision led to more than 12,000 senior deaths, accounting for more than half of Pennsylvania’s total.
Days before Dr. Levine signed her nursing home directive, she took her 95-year-old mother out of a personal care home, after she was notified of residents nearby who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Moreover, reports from the state indicate that there’s been official undercounting of nursing home deaths — exactly the same crime New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of.
During Dr. Levine’s Senate confirmation hearing, Republican members grilled her on the missing numbers — must be Ms. Psaki wasn’t paying too close attention to the Senate hearings.
According to a Spotlight PA report, there continues to be missing data for more than 100 of the state’s 693 nursing homes, reported weekly by the state’s health department. Reporting further indicates Pennsylvania didn’t act fast enough to implement strike teams to confront nursing home outbreaks and how the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated longstanding problems with state oversight of the facilities.
In August, the Justice Department, under then-President Donald Trump, sent a letter to the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan and New Jersey to provide data on whether they violated federal law by ordering nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals.
The Justice Department’s inquiry remains open; however, the status of the investigation is unclear under the new Biden administration. This month, Pennsylvania Republicans announced an investigation into Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe’s administration handling of the state’s nursing home policy.
If confirmed, Dr. Levine will hold the second-highest position at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the nation’s coronavirus response. The Biden administration likes to tout she would be the first openly transgender woman to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
However, what’s more important — and deserves more attention — is whether she’s qualified to take such a position, given her role in Pennsylvania’s nursing home death count. It’s an issue Ms. Psaki should definitely brush up on.