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Biden taps Pa. health secretary to join admin


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Tom Lisi
January 20, 2021
New job, expanded eligibility, sworn in, Capitol arrests, $11 million refund, butter sculptures, and a humiliating ranking. It's Inauguration Wednesday.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine is leaving Pennsylvania. 

Soon-to-be President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he had picked Levine to become his administration's assistant secretary of health. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she will become the highest-ranking openly transgender official in the federal government.

"She has been a wise and dedicated partner during this pandemic and throughout her career with the commonwealth," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. "I couldn’t be prouder of the tireless work she’s done to serve Pennsylvanians and protect the public health."

THE CONTEXT: Levine won notice over the past year as she became the public face of Pennsylvania's response to the pandemic — repeatedly telling residents to "stay calm, stay home, and stay safe." Her national profile grew when she didn't skip a beat in carrying out her duties as she faced repeated personal attacks and harassment that targeted her gender identity.

The pediatrician, who joined the Wolf administration in 2015, was criticized for the department's handling of the crisis inside nursing and personal care homes, where thousands of residents have died. As Spotlight PA previously reported, the pandemic likely exploited health officials' failure to improve long-standing problems.


“The retail workers, they've been in it since Day 1. They're still in it, and I look forward to having access to that vaccination for ... all of our members.”

—Andrea Karns, vice president of Karns Food, on how grocery store workers are still not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine
POST IT: Views of Harrisburg's Riverfront Park. Thanks, Carol D., for the submission! Send us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
EXPANDED AGAIN: The state has once again made more Pennsylvanians immediately eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, announcing Tuesday that people over the age of 64, and those 16 and older with serious medical conditions, are now included in Phase 1A of the rollout, PennLive reports. Still, a limited supply of doses will likely cause delays.
SWORN IN: Republicans Stacy Garrity and Tim DeFoor were sworn in Tuesday as the state's new treasurer and auditor general, the Capital-Star reports. Two of the state's three row offices are now held by the GOP, a major power shift. 
CAPITOL CHARGES: Department of Justice officials added two Western Pennsylvania men to the growing list of people facing federal charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Erie News Now reports. A Harrisburg woman, meanwhile, will be formally charged with allegedly stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's laptop

REFUND REQUESTED: Chester County officials are suing for an $11 million refund, claiming a Malvern-based company provided just a fraction of the 1 million antibody tests it promised to deliver, The Inquirer reports. The company, Advaite Inc., said the county failed to pick up available test kits.
CUT OFF: Several large corporations told Popular Information they will suspend donations to some or all members of the Pennsylvania legislature. The move comes as companies cut off campaign cash to lawmakers who called on Congress to reject Biden's Electoral College win or otherwise cast doubt on the validity of the election. 
UDDER BEAUTY: The homemade Farm Show butter sculptures are here, and they're exceeding our wildest expectations. You have until Jan. 22 to "like" your favorite entries on Facebook to help the artists win grocery gift cards.

PHILLY PIPES: Singer and songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, a Philadelphia native, will perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. She'll be joined by country music singer Eric Church, because, why not!

POSTER CHILD: A 24-year-old Erie native has created posters promoting U.S national parks and is donating 10% of the sales to the National Park Foundation. One of his "Save America Print Series" posters features Presque Isle Lighthouse in his hometown.

WORSE THAN NEW JERSEY!? A new Wallethub study ranking "the best and worst states to drive in" brings the finance website's entire credibility into question. It ranks Pennsylvania 44th, behind the Garden State at 42nd. Humiliating? Yes, but low-ranking states are in good company: At the bottom of the list is Hawaii.

ON LOCATION: The new Netflix series “Archive 81” is filming on the North Side of Pittsburgh. The locale is a popular spot: You may recognize it from "An American Pickle" or "Downward Dog."
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Generously

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Jill G., Michael K., Neal W., Theodore W., Irene R., Carol D., Tish M., David I., Patricia R., Dianne K., Christina L., John C., David W., Joel S., Deb C., George S., Leonard K., Bill C., and Ron P. 
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