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OP-ED: Congressman Scott Perry Calls for Federal Investigation

Harrisburg, May 15, 2020
I just sent a formal request that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Investigations immediately open an independent investigation into whether the PA Department of Health’s guidance to nursing facilities contributed to an increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths in Pennsylvania nursing homes. I will not continue to standby while Governor Wolf continues to endorse and demand policies that harm peoples’ health and well-being. That’s not the Oath I took.

When the Congressional Delegation and the leadership of the State Legislature inquired to Gov. Wolf about the inordinate amount of COVID-19 fatalities in elder care, assisted living and nursing facilities, we received a familiar response: silence. Nearly 70% of all COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania have occurred in nursing and long-term care facilities. Governor Wolf has failed to protect our most vulnerable populations, and he’s shown little desire to modify his decisions that continue to have devastating effects on our most at-risk population.

When the pandemic came to Pennsylvania, we didn’t have many answers, but we knew it was an emergency. We trusted our governor to make decisions to safeguard our lives and our livelihoods. He used his emergency powers, and we trusted his judgement and were happy to do our part to protect our neighbors. We also trusted that going forward our governor would work with federal, state and local officials as well as stakeholders in our communities to ensure that all voices were heard and considered.

In the two months since the COVID-19 outbreak began, we’ve learned a lot more. We now see Governor Wolf’s mismanagement compared to other similarly situated states. We also see that he intends to unilaterally continue to use those same emergency powers to obscure his failures and to relegate our citizens to a dependence upon the state.

It’s time to move our Commonwealth forward. We have the resources and knowledge to allow our communities and businesses to reopen following common-sense social distancing and personal hygiene guidelines. We have CDC parameters, after all. The mere definition of “parameters” gives us gates within which to function, as long as recommended health guidance is followed. Let’s have some common sense here.

Since the start of the outbreak, the federal government responded to the needs of Pennsylvania and answered Gov. Wolf’s calls for assistance: President Trump sent 2.6 million N-95 masks; 18 million surgical and procedural masks; 470 million medical gloves; $301 million in testing assistance; and over $21.4 billion in loans to 150,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania. On top of this assistance, Congress authorized nearly $3 trillion in a matter of weeks on COVID-19 assistance – to include $5 billion directly for Pennsylvania – with the intention that these funds be used to sustain state and local governments. Instead, our governor is holding those billions hostage from our counties, with the threat that they continue to implement the governor’s failed lockdown policies or they get nothing.

When the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation formally asked the Governor for a plan regarding how the billions in federal tax dollars would be allocated to our Counties, we received not so much as an acknowledgement. The Governor’s lack of communication and responsiveness to our local leaders and Pennsylvania Citizens during this crisis has been reprehensible – at best.

Governor Wolf continues to devastate – and threaten – our businesses and their employees under his arbitrary and inconsistent closure policies. The Governor has relegated us only to exist; while we watch our life’s work and dreams wither away as his inconsistent policies allow others in the same neighborhood to prosper and profit from the pandemic. I can barely keep up with the calls coming into my office – some from businesses that were granted waivers to operate two months ago, invested hundreds of thousands in inventory so they could continue to do just that, and received a late-night email (strategically) late last week basically saying that the Governor’s Administration reviewed its initial waiver to you, but now it’s revoked, so you must shut down immediately. And when challenged, the governor has the audacity to call fellow Pennsylvanians “cowards” who “surrendered to the virus?” Hardly.

Battles are not fought unilaterally; they have “flanks.” Make no mistake, this pandemic is a battle. In this case, on one flank, yes, we must protect and secure our citizens; on the other flank, we must secure our livelihoods and ensure that after this pandemic is over, we have lives and livelihoods to return to and ways to support ourselves, our families and our communities. We have hardly “surrendered,” Governor; and that statement in itself is reprehensible for more reasons than I have space to give here. As a Congressman who took an Oath to support and defend our Nation and its People - I stand with those who are desperate, panicked, and hurting under ludicrous policies that clearly have undergone no thoughtful decision-making process whatsoever. It’s time to move forward.

Enough is enough, Governor. We’re free American citizens, and we can no longer bear being disregarded, ignored, insulted, and having our questions and concerns treated like they’re too bothersome to answer. We can no longer watch our elderly loved ones and neighbors suffer and die due to your failed policies. We also won’t stand idly by as our hard-earned fortunes are squandered so we can become wards of the state. And we’ll certainly not be called cowards for the simple acts of trying to survive and provide for our families and communities."
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