Rep. Fred Keller to Newsmax TV: Investigate HHS Secretary's COVID Actions

March 25, 2021
In The News

Lawmakers should have investigated more deeply the past actions of newly confirmed Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, the former Pennsylvania health secretary who one day earlier was confirmed as the first openly transgender federal official by the U.S. Senate, according to Rep, Fred Keller, R-Pa., Thursday on Newsmax TV.

"We seem to be at a point in time when we need to take a look at the capability and qualifications of people and their past actions, and not other things that, you know, we shouldn't be making decisions based upon any other thing than 'is that the best person for the job,'" Keller told Thursday's "John Bachman Now."

"When we look at what happened, not only did we have the problem with the nursing homes in Pennsylvania, but Secretary Levine in Pennsylvania removed her mother from an assisted living, or care home, prior to this order coming in place.

"So, when you look at the actions of what was done for themselves, and then not looking out for many other seniors in Pennsylvania, that should have been a question: 'Are you really looking out for the health of the people of the United States or are you going to put other interests first as you demonstrated in Pennsylvania?'"

Keller said he would not have voted to confirm Levine because of her performance in Pennsylvania, "and the actions that she took removing her family from a situation where she said and upheld a policy by Gov. [Tom] Wolf, where people would be released back into these facilities that may have had COVID."

Weekly reports released by Pennsylvania's Department of Health have consistently missed data for more than 100 of the state's 693 nursing homes.

During a February hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP, Levine told Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that Pennsylvania had not, like New York, undercounted nursing home deaths. She also said the state's electronic death reporting system (EDRS) was the reason why case and death data appeared to be incomplete.

In New York, the administration of Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being investigated for the way it handled data about COVID nursing home deaths. 

State Attorney General Letitia James in January released a damning report that said the state Health Department underreported the death toll in those facilities by as much as 50%.

The most recent report available on the Pennsylvania state health department website March 10 showed case and death data missing for 138 facilities. The previous week, data was missing for 133 facilities, according to a March 4 report.