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Lawmaker Mocks Trans Health Secretary, Denounces ‘Discrimination Against Unmasked’

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Some political hot water reached the boiling point this week in an ongoing tiff between an outspoken Republican opponent of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

After months tolerating slurs involving her gender identity, Levine spoke out on Tuesday in response, ahead of a news conference on the spread of Covid-19 pandemic in her state. One day later, State Rep. Russ Diamond of Lebanon County, Penn., issued a statement that parroted Levine’s words, but he did so in defense of those — like him — who refuse to wear masks to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Diamond, who was elected to the statehouse in 2014, has openly criticized Levine’s order that requires most Pennsylvanians to wear a mask in public, except in rare cases of health concerns.

“Your actions perpetuate a spirit of intolerance and discrimination against unmasked individuals and specifically individuals like myself who are outspoken about it,” Diamond wrote on official House letterhead, repeating Levine’s remarks almost word for word.

The governor called on Diamond’s superiors in the Republican legislative caucus to censure the representative for mimicking Levine, calling it a “thinly veiled attack on the LGBTQ community,” according to the Pa Post.

“To equate any disrespect for those not wearing masks to the decades of disrespect, threats, and violence against our LGBTQ community goes far beyond the hallmarks of a decent society,” Wolf said in a statement. “For these actions to come from a legislator elected to fairly represent all his constituents is simply unforgivable.”

Two hours later, Diamond fired back with another statement that nearly quoted Wolf verbatim, but this time the lawmaker demanded Wolf fire Levine and then resign.

“Abhorrent, unlawful, political and deadly. These are the words that describe my disdain for Wolf’s actions, not just today but throughout the COVID-19 disaster emergency,” Diamond began, and then he used that word that is a signal to literally everyone in the LGBTQ community that the speaker is not a supporter: “lifestyle.”

“Secretary of Health Rachel Levine made a strong statement in defense of her lifestyle and condemned hatred and intolerance,” Diamond said in his statement. “I, of course, condemn all hatred and intolerance. However, I found it ironic that Levine fails to see that her own policies, and those of the governor, are creating similar hatred and intolerance across Pennsylvania.”

“I call on the governor to immediately resign, right after he dismisses Dr. Rachel Levine as secretary of Health for her horrendous performance as the top health official in the state, and her actions to rescue her own mother from the deadly setting of a personal care home without informing the rest of Pennsylvania of the dangers within.” Levine has said she did so only because her mother requested the move.

Asked to respond by Pa Post, Levine said Thursday Diamond’s remarks represented “another example of harassment against LGBTQ individuals.”

In separate statements to Pa Post, spokespersons for Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Republican Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff said “discrimination in any form is wrong” but made no promise to either censure or defend Diamond.

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Pa. Health Dept. Reports 760 New Cases Of Coronavirus, Bringing Total To 118,852 – CBS Pittsburgh

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By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG (KDKA) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting 760 new cases of Coronavirus on Sunday and just one additional death.

The statewide total number of cases has risen to 118,852 since Saturday’s report.

The Health Department says all 67 counties in Pennsylvania have had cases of COVID-19. Current patients are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.

The number of tests administered within the last seven days between August 1 and August 7 is 150,527 with 5,321 positive cases. There were 23,317 test results reported to the department through 10 p.m. on Aug. 7, according to the Health Department. These results represent the total number of tests administered.

The statewide death toll stands at 7,314.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is seeing significant increases in the number of coronavirus cases among younger ages groups, particularly 19-24-year-olds. Healthcare providers have been alerted to the changing number of case demographics, as there are now more cases in younger age groups than those in 50-64-years-old and 65 and older.

The following regions saw significant increases among 19 to 24-year-olds in each month from April to the end of July:

  • SE – Nearly 5 percent of cases in April to approximately 19 percent of cases in July;
  • SW – Approximately 5 percent of cases in April to nearly 18 percent of cases in July;
  • NE – 6 percent of cases in April to nearly 17 percent of cases in July;
  • SC – Approximately 7 percent of cases in April to approximately 14 percent of cases in July;
  • NC – Approximately 7 percent of cases in April to nearly 14 percent of cases in July; and
  • NW – Nearly 7 percent of cases in April to approximately 13 percent of cases in July.

“As the state has put in place targeted mitigation efforts to offset recent case increases, we must renew our commitment to protecting against COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvania has been a model for the country on how to reopen effectively using a careful, measured approach. However, we know the virus has not gone away as we see cases rise, so we must work together to stop another surge.”

The state health department numbers show there are 19,968 resident cases of COVID-19 in nursing and personal care homes across Pennsylvania. Among employees, there are 4,153 diagnosed cases. That brings the entire total to 24,087. Out of the total deaths across Pennsylvania, state officials say 4,974 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

Approximately 8,644 of the state’s total cases are in health care workers.

Currently, all 67 counties are in the green phase of reopening. However, restrictions are in place for bars, restaurants and large gatherings.

If you have concerns about the virus, you can check out the state’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.

More information on the Coronavirus pandemic:

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Florida health officials report fewer than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases

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ORLANDO, Fla. – As teachers and students gear up to return to the classroom amid a global pandemic, deaths and positive cases continue to rise in Florida.

Public health leaders said an additional 77 people have recently died from the virus. Their deaths raise the overall count to 8,315 that number includes 129 non-residents who died in Florida.

The Florida Department of Health on Sunday reported 6,229 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Florida to 532,806.

The number is a running total since the virus was first detected in Florida in March.

[MORE: More than 19,000 Floridians projected to die from COVID-19 by December, experts say]

On Saturday, the positivity rate for the number of people who tested positive for the first time, compared to the overall tests, fell to 9.91%. Health officials agree the rate should be below 10% to show infections are decreasing. The FDOH has not released data for Sunday.

Across the state, 6,872 people are currently hospitalized with severe cases of the virus, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration’s report.

The FDOH’s coronavirus dashboard reveals 30,505 people have been hospitalized due to complications with COVID-19 since March, an increase of 254 patients since the last time the state released the total 24 hours ago.

There were over 2,000 fewer cases on Sunday compared to Saturday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants the numbers to continue to improve so tourism can resume and workers in the hospitality and the service industry can return to work.

“I think people have done a good job, and that’s the way these things go,” DeSantis said.

The governor pointed out that Orlando, home to several theme parks, had done a good job of mitigating the spread, but it was “not where they need to be.” He said worst-hit South Florida was still behind.

“I want all these people back to work,” he said. “As we continue to see positive trends, we will have an opportunity to see some improvements.”

Some students will begin to hit the books Monday as virtual learning classes begin ahead of face-to-face sessions.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told school districts last month they must reopen schools for in-person instruction or face a cut in funding. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis later said there would be flexibility to allow districts to delay openings.

[BACK TO SCHOOL: 4 things Orange County Public Schools wants parents to know before Monday]

The Florida Education Association is suing the state in effort to postpone school openings, saying there haven’t been enough precautions put in place to make sure students and teachers are safe.

“We know that kids get COVID, we know they spread COVID, we just don’t know to what extent and how severe that might be,” said Andrew Spar, vice president of the teachers union. “What we don’t know is when we open schools and create these super-spreader situations in a climate in which we have uncontrolled community spread, what is that going to do?”

He said teachers want to be in the classroom, but there isn’t a good plan to ensure that it’s done safely.

Parents of Central Florida students can find everything they need to know about their district’s back-to-school plan at ClickOrlando.com/backtoschool.


Here’s a breakdown of COVID-19 cases in Central Florida:

County Cases New cases Hospitalizations New Hospitalizations Deaths
Brevard 6,064 213 468 3 151
Flagler 1,070 18 87 0 13
Lake 5,161 88 274 1 68
Marion 6,511 251 486 2 89
Orange 31,719 324 945 5 298
Osceola 9,696 128 425 6 104
Polk 14,301 177 1,391 0 312
Seminole 7,118 70 456 5 119
Sumter 1,303 19 176 0 41
Volusia 7,876 97 573 2 135

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter and go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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U.S. health chief arrives in Taiwan on trip condemned by China

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China which claims the island as its own, further irritating Sino-U.S. relations.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar listens during a roundtable discussion on “America’s seniors” hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing. The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority, and boosted arms sales.

Beijing, already arguing with Washington over everything from human rights and trade to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has threatened unspecified countermeasures to Azar’s visit. China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if needed.

Azar arrived at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport on a U.S. government aircraft late in the afternoon, and was met by Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, and by Taiwan Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang.

In accordance with COVID-19 rules, there were no handshakes and all officials wore masks, including Azar, as seen in images broadcast live on Taiwanese television.

Azar is coming to strengthen economic and public-health cooperation with Taiwan and support Taiwan’s international role in fighting the pandemic.

On Monday he will sign a health cooperation memorandum of understanding with Taiwan’s government and visit Taiwan’s Centres for Disease Control.

He is also scheduled to meet President Tsai Ing-wen during his visit.

Azar and his team had to be tested for the coronavirus before and upon arrival. They will have to wear face masks throughout their visit and practice social distancing.

Taiwan’s early and effective steps to fight the disease have kept its case numbers far lower than those of its neighbours, with 480 infections, including seven deaths. Most cases have been imported.

The United States has had more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country, and the wearing of masks has become a heated political issue, with some people objecting to what they see as an infringement of personal freedom.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard

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