News & Brews February 26, 2021

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Sec’t of Health won’t say whether nursing home policy was mistake

Facing questions from Rep. Natalie Mihalek (Allegheny and Washington counties) yesterday, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam refused to say whether the Department of Health’s order last year sending COVID positive patients back to nursing homes was a mistake. More than half the state’s nearly 24,000 COVID deaths occurred among residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Watch the Q&A here. During the same hearing, Secretary Beam was also unable to explain to Rep. Meghan Schroeder (Bucks County) why DOH expanded vaccine eligibility despite knowing there wasn’t enough supply to meet the new eligibility. Watch that exchange here

DOH sends COVID vaccines to pediatricians, even though most kids can’t get it

As bipartisan criticisms of the Wolf administration’s COVID vaccine rollout mount, the Inquirer reports that the Department of Health has sent thousands of vaccine doses to pediatric offices statewide. This even though vaccines aren’t authorized for use for the vast majority of youth. Meanwhile, many doctors serving elderly and at-risk patients can’t get doses.

Marcellus Shale Coalition says new fracking ban ‘defies sound science’

Yesterday, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to ban fracking within the basin, which stretches from New York through eastern PA, down to Delaware, and includes western New Jersey. Gov. Wolf, a member of the commission, voted in favor of the ban. The Biden administration (also a member) abstained from voting. Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan criticized the vote, stating, “It may be a good day for those who seek higher energy prices for American consumers and a deeper dependence on foreign nations to fuel our economy, but this vote defies common sense, sound science, and is a grave blow to constitutionally protected private property rights.” Read more here.

Wolf appoints Torsella to pension board

Former Treasurer Joe Torsella may have lost his re-election bid in November, but it appears his public service isn’t over. Yesterday, Gov. Wolf appointed Torsella as Wolf’s representative on the board of the Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS). Torsella has pushed for reform and more transparency at PSERS, a move not always appreciated by PSERS (no shocker there). His appointment requires Senate confirmation.

During hearing, Levine faces questions on PA nursing home data

During her confirmation hearing for Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health, former PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine was questioned on “the ongoing data discrepancies in Pennsylvania’s public reports on nursing home coronavirus deaths and cases,” Spotlight PA reports. While Levine blamed lags in reporting, Spotlight PA basically says this response isn’t accurate.

$15 minimum wage? Pro/Con op-eds

The Philadelphia Inquirer has dueling op-eds on whether a government-mandated $15 minimum wage is a good idea. On the “yes” side, contributed by Philly business owner Michael O’Connor, are arguments for a “living wage” and “smart business.” On the “no” side, Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry CEO Guy Ciarrocchi, counters that mandating a $15 minimum wage is a “feel-good proposal” that “actually harms many of the people who are to be helped.” Both viewpoints are published here(paywall).

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