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Secretary Levine: PA ‘Not Considering A Shutdown' To Deal With Rising COVID-19 Cases

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Instead of returning to a "red, yellow, green" shutdown system like the one used in the spring, Pennsylvania is focusing on existing mitigation efforts, like mask wearing, says Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.


On today's program: The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported another record high number of COVID-19 cases this past weekend; and Democrats won the presidency, but didn’t fare as well on down ballot races.

Pennsylvania focusing on mitigation efforts to curb coronavirus
(00:00 — 10:07)

Pennsylvania reported nearly 16,000 additional cases of COVID-19 over the last week. The rate of positive tests are increasing and hospitalizations are on the rise.

The state is in the midst of a fall resurgence, saysDr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, but is better prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus than it was in the spring. On Monday, Pfizer announced its vaccine shows positive results, and the company plans to request emergency authorization later this month. Levine says Pennsylvania is alreadyputting infrastructure in place to distribute vaccines when they come available.

“I think that in 2021 that there certainly will be a vaccine for the general public; I can’t say whether that will be mid-spring, late spring or early summer,” she tells The Confluence.

Levine says Pennsylvania is “not considering a shutdown like the red, yellow, green protocols that we put in place in the spring,” and instead is focusing on containment and mitigation efforts already in place, such as theuniversal mask order, limits on indoor dining, andlimits on public gatherings.

Though the state has begun to see a small increase in deaths, Levine does not anticipate death rates will climb to the same heights they reached at the beginning of the pandemic. She says medical care has become more sophisticated, and therapeutics, such as monoclonal antibodies.

Levine said at a press conference last week that there was reluctance from people to answer questions from contact tracers.

“We still need people to answer the call. We need them to answer the phone when they see that it’s the Pennsylvania Department of Health or our county municipal health partners,” Levine says. 

State Democrats evaluate 2020 performance after down ballot losses
(10:13 — 18:01)

The very top of the Democratic ballot was successful in last week’s election. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris captured Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, winning them the highest office in the land. But Biden’s success in Pennsylvania did not pull along Democratic candidates in statewide contests and legislative races.


“The one thing that we are all talking about is how many people we lost down ballot; so there is no question that we have suffered here in PA and we have a lot of work to do,” saysNancy Patton Mills, the chair of the state Democratic Party.

Democrats won all three statewide row offices—attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer— in 2016. This year, they lost all but the attorney general’s contest. Democrats also appear to have failed to win either the House or the Senate in the state legislature.

Patton Mills says Biden’s win at the top of the ticket, coupled with Democratic losses down ballot could be indicative of vote splitting.  

“I think some of the people we brought back into the fold were Republicans and they voted only for Biden,” she says.

This was the first presidential election that didn’t include a straight ticket voting option. It was eliminated in 2019 as part of a state law that also expanded access to mail-in balloting in Pennsylvania.

“I think that vote by mail elected Joe Biden, and the sacrifice, of course, was the straight party vote,” says Patton Mills. “We will definitely be looking at those numbers also.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.


Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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