Health secretary strikes back after transphobic attacks


HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s health secretary hit back Tuesday against the “perpetuators and the perpetrators” of transphobic attacks against her, saying they hurt the state’s LGBTQ residents and must come to an end.

Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman who is leading the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, started off her daily briefing by addressing the constant stream of mockery and abuse directed toward her on social media and elsewhere.

“While these individuals may think that they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are, in fact hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffer directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” she said.

“Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, and specifically transgender individuals,” Levine said.

While most of the harassment has taken place online, some of it has bled over into real life. In Bloomsburg, one of the state’s largest fairs apologized last week for a dunk-tank parody of Levine that involved a man in a dress. Separately, a local official in western Pennsylvania resigned after saying at a public meeting he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up like a woman.”

“To perpetuators and the perpetrators of these actions, if your apologies are sincere, then I accept them. But an apology is the beginning, not the end, of the conversation,” said Levine, calling for acceptance.

“As for me, I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly I do not have time for intolerance,” Levine said.

1,000 new cases statewide

Pennsylvania reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday for the third time in less than a week and the sixth time this month as some regions of the state continue to see rising case numbers.

Health Department officials expressed concerns about the rate of positive test results in 14 counties, including Mercer.

An additional 1,120 people tested positive for the virus, raising the statewide total to more than 109,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the state Health Department.

Health officials reported 24 new deaths, raising the death toll to 7,146.

The Health Department cited 14 counties with a “concerning” percentage of tests coming back positive. Those counties — Beaver, Armstrong, Franklin, Mercer, Allegheny, Lawrence, Chester, Philadelphia, Fayette, York, Dauphin, Delaware, Bedford and Greene — are scattered throughout the state.

That warning comes as new cases have been on the decline for about a week in Mercer County. Three new cases reported Thursday brought the county’s total to 303, including 263 confirmed cases and 40 probables.

Since July 22, when the county had 20 new cases — its highest single-day total of the pandemic — Mercer County has had a total of 25 new cases in six days. Mercer County residents have had 6,863 negative tests.

The Health Department said Philadelphia reported 175 new cases on Tuesday, while Allegheny had 119 and Delaware reported 118.