Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary reportedly cut a secret agreement with a car show near the state capital that enabled them to get around coronavirus restrictions on outdoor gatherings.
According to legal documents obtained by local Pittsburgh outlet WPXI, Dr. Rachel Levine made a confidential settlement agreement with the Carlisle Car Show near Harrisburg that allowed 20,000 people to attend their four-day event in June. According to Pennsylvania’s color-coded reopening plan, outdoor gatherings are limited 250 people or less.
The apparent hypocrisy has shocked and dismayed some state lawmakers, who told WPXI the move was “outrageous,” “ridiculous,” and “not fair.” Republican state Rep. Aaron Bernstein, who represents counties in the western part of the state, described it as “despicable,” adding, “It’s not fair that eastern PA set up deals when we abide by rules.”
Butler county leaders say this is about much more than a car show on the other side of the state. They say a confidential deal cut last month between the health department and a huge outdoor event allowing 20,000 people in per day shows hypocrisy and favoritism during a pandemic. pic.twitter.com/ch3vrfTGhT
— Vote Amy Marcinkiewicz (@VoteAmy2021) August 20, 2020
Democratic state Rep. Chris Sainato, who represents Lawrence County on the Ohio border, told WPXI, “That was surprising to me when you told me we’ve been making the sacrifices for five months.”
Pointing out how the county fair had to be canceled to comply with the health secretary’s mandates, Sainato said such a deal transcends political party. “I don’t think it’s truly fair throughout the state. You have to play by the same rules for everywhere no matter where you are in the state.”
Republican state Rep. Marci Mustello of Butler County was likewise incensed, saying, “I think somebody needs to explain why this agreement was allowed or even offered. So yes, it’s outrageous to even think this.”
The car show agreement is not the first time Pennsylvania officials have faced accusations of inconsistently applying COVID-19 restrictions. Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf broke his own state’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions on June 3, when he marched in solidarity with hundreds of protesters in Harrisburg following the death of George Floyd. In Harrisburg’s Dauphin County, which was in the “yellow phase” at the time, gatherings were restricted to 25 people or less.
Regarding why the governor and protesters were seemingly given a pass, Levine said, “The governor has always said that people have the right to protest, and to demonstrate, and the right to free speech, and so overall, we want large gatherings such as maybe a party or some type of concert or something, to be under 250 people.”
“But, we are not restricting people’s right to protest,” Levine added. “There are all obviously significant social issues that are present, that people feel that they need to have a voice, and so the governor is always supportive of that and is participating.”
PA Health Sec. won’t allow the state to reopen or people to gather – and the Gov. who said businesses that disobey are cowards as he marches in protests himself – actually tries to legitimize limitless protests in the street while standing by restrictions. pic.twitter.com/4jKwJGBtpG
— Chris Stigall (@ChrisStigall) June 3, 2020
Citing it as an “ongoing legal issue,” Levine refused WPXI’s repeated attempts to obtain substantive comment. Wolf also offered no comment, according to the outlet. While neither Levine nor Wolf had anything to say about the confidential agreement, the two have been vocal when it comes to scolding Pennsylvanians who do not acknowledge the biologically male Levine as a woman.
In May, Levine warned radio personality Marty Griffin against misgendering her after he called Levine “sir” several times. Griffin apologized profusely and maintained that he used the wrong pronoun unintentionally, though he did not escape accusations of transphobia. As punishment, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto subsequently canceled an interview on Griffin’s radio station.
When a county fair in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, featured a dunk tank with a man dressed as a woman in July, Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) went on Twitter to blast those who said he resembled Levine. “Dr. Levine is an honorable public servant whose tireless work to keep PA safe and healthy has saved countless lives,” Casey said. “She is owed an apology.” Wolf echoed him in a rebuke that spanned three tweets, admonishing that “hate has no place in Pennsylvania.”
Most recently, Wolf lashed out at Trump campaign adviser Jenna Ellis earlier this month, accusing her of hate speech after she called Levine a guy. “To [Ellis] and whoever else needs to hear this: Misgendering a transgender person is hate speech and it’s unacceptable,” Wolf said. The Human Rights Campaign accused Ellis of being “a bigot.”
As The Daily Wire reported, Ellis responded in part, “To be called a bigot for simply acknowledging scientific fact is both hilarious and tragic.”