WASHINGTON (TND) — Dr. Rachel Levine, the nation’s first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate, was named one of USA Today’s “Women of the Year” Sunday, sparking outrage from her critics.
“Rachel Levine is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, a recognition of women across the country who have made a significant impact,” wrote USA Today. Other nominees included Vice President Kamala Harris and Melinda Gates, the former wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
USA Today has been lauded by some for giving Levine the honor, but criticized by others.
A lot of the criticism stems from her decision making during the pandemic while serving in her role as Pennsylvania’s health secretary.
Levine reportedly oversaw the implementation of guidance requiring Pennsylvania nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients discharged from the hospital – a move critics argue directly contributed to the more than 13,200 nursing home coronavirus deaths in the state.
“Our secretary of health, Dr. Levine, decided that it would be good to allow COVID-positive patients to be returned to elder-care facilities. And as a result of that, it broke out like fire,” said Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, according to TribLive.com. Not long after implementing this statewide guidance, Levine reportedly removed her mother from a personal care facility.
Data on COVID nursing home deaths in Pennsylvania was often missing and incomplete, and Levine often gave contradictory answers when pressed on the issue.
Nonetheless, she was still tapped by President Joe Biden for her current role as Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she has helped oversee the federal response to COVID-19.
“In Pennsylvania, the pandemic struck seniors in nursing homes disproportionately hard compared to other states. This was due in part to poor decisions and oversight by Dr. Levine and the Wolf administration,” said Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey in regard to his decision to vote against confirming Levine into her top role at HHS. “Moreover, the commonwealth’s extended economic lockdown that Dr. Levine advocated for was excessive, arbitrary in nature, and has led to a slower recovery. While I appreciate Dr. Levine’s service and responsiveness to my office over the past year, she has not earned a promotion to help lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and I cannot support her confirmation.”