Americans have made many sacrifices in 2020. They have, by and large, worn masks, social distanced, and for months, self-quarantined in an effort to combat the coronavirus. One of the chief proponents of all this prudence has been Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. At least in part, because of her recommendations, Americans in Pennsylvania have selflessly sacrificed as she has asked them to.
Governor Wolf has made no secret of listening to and taking her advice throughout the pandemic.
But what apparently was a secret, according to documents obtained by NBC affiliate WPXI, was a deal Levine made with the people who put on one of America’s largest car shows in Carlisle, Pa.
The car show draws in over 20,000 people per day. Levine’s own recommendations and mandates have limited crowds to under 250 people.
According to Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI:
The paperwork shows the two sides came to a discrete deal allowing the show in eastern Pennsylvania to go on even though it violated the green phase restrictions that all of Pennsylvania is supposed to be abiding by: 250 people at outdoor events; 25 people at indoor events.
The confidential agreement allowed this car show to go on for four days, letting 20,000 people in per day.
On Tuesday, 11 Investigates asked the health secretary about the agreement.
“Any type of ongoing legal issue, you know I can’t really comment on,” is all that Levine said.
Upon learning of the deal, Pennsylvania lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are not pleased, to say the least.
When State Rep. Chris Sainato, (D-Lawrence County) learned about the agreement, he reacted by saying, “That was surprising to me when you told me. We’ve been making the sacrifices for five months.” He continued on, saying, “And this is Lawrence County Fair week, of course, it was canceled to comply.”
Sainato said this is not about political parties. He said this deal is not right — “I don’t think it’s truly fair throughout the state. You have to play by the same rules for everywhere no matter where you are in the state.”
State Rep. Marci Mustello, (R-Bulter County) said her district has suffered, canceling the Big Butler Fair, the Farm Show, and the Saxonburg Carnival to name a few. She said taxpayers should wonder why an event near Harrisburg got the go-ahead, “while the rest of us are canceling everything, graduation and birthday parties, abiding by the COVID-19. restrictions.
“I think somebody needs to explain why this agreement was allowed or even offered. So yes, it’s outrageous to even think this,” Mustello said.
Lawmakers are planning to call on Dr. Levine to answer questions on this matter in a special hearing.
This is not about parties or politics. This is about being fair and honest with everyone in the state. Americans deserve that from their elected and appointed officials. It seems Dr. Levine will have a lot to answer for if these allegations turn out to be accurate. Americans have sacrificed and people like Dr. Levine have encouraged and even forced such compliance. To find out they are possibly making “secret deals” with certain entities while other businesses and events are shut down, some even fined/charged, and have their licenses revoked is outrageous, and it doesn’t matter where one falls on the political spectrum to see such inconsistency and injustice.
UPDATE: This story was published by WPXI (as an update) on August 19th, 2020. The story, however, looks like it might have been resolved months ago and the deal wasn’t as “secret” as suggested. Below is more information which calls some of WPXI’s conclusions into question:
From PennLive.com back in June:
On Wednesday, the state Department of Health filed a lawsuit hoping to stop large crowds from assembling at the car show that was slated to begin that day. The two sides reached a settlement before a hearing scheduled for noon on Friday, and shortly thereafter, the Pa. Department of Health and Carlisle Events released a joint statement saying that the two sides would work together to keep everyone safe at the car show.
The article goes on to say:
“We want to thank the Department of Health, their legal team, the state, Gov. Wolf, etc. because I think we were able to learn a lot from each other,” Garland said. “They were able to get a better idea of what our goal and our messaging was and I think we were able to get a better understanding of theirs as well.”
In order to get the show going in the first place, Carlisle Events had to plan out safety guidelines to present to the patrons. According to its website, customers were asked to social distance, wash hands, wear a mask, and stay at home if sick.
But wait, there’s more:
In addition, the website also established one-way foot traffic areas and spaced out benches and other sitting areas. Restrooms and food areas were closed once daily for deep cleaning, and lines were drawn up to space people apart six feet, among other guidelines.
Garland said hosting the event during the pandemic was a learning experience and that there are still going to be different things they will take from this week that will be applied to future events. He described each car show as having its own personality with different features that must be catered to for safety.
“As the implementation goes, certainly we came out of Spring Carlisle knowing that we did a great job, knowing that there’s always room for improvement,” Garland said. “I mean you can’t be complacent with your measures. Areas that maybe we didn’t think twice about.
”Like we have benches where our guests may sit. Lots of space. A lot of people walking around. So they want to sit down with these benches. Well, we spread the benches out, but at the same time, you’re looking, you might see two or three people now sitting on the bench and we’re going to look at ways to implement maybe some more social distancing suggestions with regards to relaxation stations if you will. Do we spread the benches out a little bit more? Do we post signage? I’m not going to commit to one thing or the other as to what we’re going to do or not going to commit verbally that we are going to do one thing over the other. We’re going to look at what we did, we’re going to review it and we’re going to see if there are ways that we can enhance it.”
Garland said that planning safety measures is made easier by the space. They’ve got 82 acres to work with, so it is easy to spread people out and make sure there is plenty of social distancing, which will make things easy for future events. Even with events like seminars, they can find ways to space them out and make them safer for anyone interested in attending.
Plus, as time goes on, the guidelines could change, Garland said. They’ve been fluid so far and could be completely different with every week that an event is hosted. So for now, they’re going to continue to adapt to the circumstances they face and try to put on an entertaining show for those interested in attending.
So, surely one side will point fingers at Dr. Levine and the other will use it as an example of private enterprise and government working together. We thought you’d like to be informed on both sides.