On Tuesday, incoming President Joe Biden announced he would nominate transgender Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine (born Richard Levine) for assistant secretary of health. Levine, a male who identifies as female, faced harsh criticism for removing his mother from a personal care home during the COVID-19 pandemic after he had directed nursing facilities to admit people who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The elderly are at particular risk for the virus.
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine also serves as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
In May, multiple members of the Pennsylvania State House demanded Levine’s resignation over “the horrific results of the [health] department’s COVID-19 policy” on nursing homes and other facilities under the department’s oversight. More than half (10,022) of Pennsylvania’s 19,390 COVID-19 deaths can be traced back to long-term care facilities. In May, long-term care facilities made up two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 deaths and Levine reportedly delayed releasing public information about the state’s response to the virus in such facilities.
According to a study of over 1,000 patients admitted to the hospital with the coronavirus in New York City, over 90 percent contracted the virus from close contact with an infected person, including sheltering at home or contained living situations like in nursing homes and jails.
In March, the Pennsylvania Department of Health under Levine released guidelines for nursing facilities, saying they “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.”
This order contradicted guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on March 13. “This guidance does not direct any nursing home to accept a COVID-19 positive patient, if they are unable to do so safely,” the federal agency wrote. Instead, CMS advised that “nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present” only if the nursing home can follow” CDC guidance.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma also warned, “Under no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patients’ needs.”
Yet states represented by Democratic governors ordered nursing homes not to turn away patients who had tested positive for COVID-19. In California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, thousands died of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
“Democrats failed our nursing home residents, plain and simple,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declared in a statement last June. “Despite clear warnings about exposing nursing homes to this virus, some Democrat governors decided it made more sense to force nursing homes to take in coronavirus patients, which resulted in countless avoidable deaths. The American people deserve to know what informed and motivated these decisions so it doesn’t happen again.”
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division opened an investigation into four of these states, demanding data about how the states protected citizens in nursing homes.
In May, Levine removed his mother from a personal care home as COVID-19 spread in such elderly facilities. Levine insisted that his mother was in a personal care home, not a nursing home, but COVID-19 has spread in personal care homes similar to the way it spread in nursing homes.
“My mother requested and my sister and I as her children comply to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine said at a press conference in May. “My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”
Levine’s mother may indeed be able to make her own decisions, but this removal still seems suspicious. Did Levine move to protect her mother from the virus even while ordering facilities for the elderly to admit COVID-positive patients?
Biden seems to have overlooked serious questions about Levine’s handling of the pandemic. He also likely picked Levine in order to gain accolades from the identity-politics Left. Biden has now promoted a transgender person to a key administration position — and not just any position, but a health position.
This sends a dangerous message. While the condition of gender dysphoria (the persistent and painful identification with the gender opposite one’s biological sex) is real and deserves sympathy, it does not erase the fact of biological sex. Human beings are male or female down to the level of their DNA, and males and females have different biochemistry even before they are born. This different biochemistry has health implications: some drugs do not work as well for men as for women, and some drugs that help men may harm women or vice versa.
Transgenderism has already caused medical mixups, to deadly effect. In one case, a pregnant woman who identified as a man went to the hospital with abdominal pains. Because the woman’s records identified her as a man, the hospital ruled out labor and did not give her the treatment she needed, so her baby died. To make matters worse, the hospital doubled down on transgender confusion, rather than accepting the truth that medicine should depend on biological sex, not gender identity.
There is no evidence that transgender surgery improves the mental health outcomes of gender dysphoric people. Men and women who formerly identified as transgender and underwent surgery have grown to reject transgender identity and lament the damage they did to their own bodies.
Yet Joe Biden has endorsed transgender identity and activism even for children under age 10. In picking a transgender official for a health/medicine role, he has not only endorsed transgenderism in general but this dangerous ideology’s invasion of the medical field in particular.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.