Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Monday signaled that he is open to a federal investigation into his administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes, as they comprise the majority of coronavirus deaths in the state.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) called for a federal investigation into the administration’s handling of nursing homes, with questions swirling around the March guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The controversial guidance essentially instructed nursing home patients to accept residents who tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus.
Perry wrote in a letter to Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell last week:
I respectfully request that the HHS Office of Investigations immediately commences an independent investigation into whether the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Interim Guidance for Nursing Facilities during COVID-19 (March 18, 2020) has contributed to an increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths in Pennsylvania nursing homes, assisted living and elder care.
“His breathtaking failure to protect the most vulnerable population in Pennsylvania warrants an independent investigation,” Perry said of Wolf. “I implore you to begin such an investigation immediately.”
When asked about Perry’s request, Wolf signaled he was open to “questions and criticisms”:
We have weekly calls with the congressional delegation where Secretary Levine and others give a briefing and update as to what’s happening with the pandemic here in in Pennsylvania, and so that that is an opportunity to make sure that we’re sharing information in terms of challenging the Commonwealth on anything we’ve done. That’s the nature of a democracy, and I welcome those those questions and criticisms.
Nearly 70 percent of coronavirus-related fatalities in the state, 3,086 of 4,505, are tied to nursing homes and personal care facilities. Many critics have attributed the the deaths to the March guidance.
The guidance stated:
Nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care settings. This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.
Wolf has since defended Health Secretary Rachel Levine, the nation’s first transgender public health secretary, and his handling of the virus of the state, stating that he has been doing a “phenomenal job.”
Levine admitted last week that he removed his mother from a nursing home during the pandemic.
“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. “My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”