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Pa. House leader wants probe into Wolf administration's actions on nursing homes, COVID

Beaver County Times - 3/1/2021

Mar. 2—Citing about 12,500 coronavirus-related deaths in Pennsylvania's nursing and personal care homes, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff on Monday called for a legislative committee investigation into how Gov. Tom Wolf's administration handled COVID-19 in those facilities.

Benninghoff, a Centre County Republican, said that when the House returns to session on March 15, he will request that the House Government Oversight Committee, which has subpoena power, launch an investigation into why nursing homes account for about half of Pennsylvania's pandemic-related deaths.

State Reps. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga County, and Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny County, joined Benninghoff in asking for a probe, with all of them saying that the Wolf administration officials have provided insufficient answers during appropriation hearings.

"Pennsylvanians and their families are left only with some excuses and/or deflections from the administration who has been anything but transparent on this issue," Benninghoff said.

Wolf's office did not immediately have a response.

Specifically, the lawmakers, much like Republicans have done since last spring, questioned why the administration told nursing homes to re-admit coronavirus-positive residents early on in the pandemic.

According to an Associated Press story last week, "no investigation has thus far pointed to the policy as a cause of death or outbreak. Meanwhile, nursing home trade associations in Pennsylvania say they are not aware of a nursing home that was forced to accept a COVID-positive patient against its will, or that the order led to death or an outbreak."

Benninghoff said he had no timeline for the investigation and expected "complete cooperation" from the Wolf administration. He also drew a comparison between Pennsylvania and New York, where a controversy is raging over Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration allegedly underreporting nursing home deaths.

"I believe we stand with Pennsylvanians in hoping that Pennsylvania is not another New York and everything was done above board," Benninghoff said.

"The answers we seek will not bring back our loved ones," Mihalek said, "but it is my hope that the information obtained through this investigation will lead to policies that will never again allow this tragic situation to occur in our commonwealth."

Owlett said that questions from lawmakers have been "dodged and talked around" by department officials in budget hearings "so if no one else is going to step up for these families, we will."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

J.D. Prose is a reporter with the USA TODAY Network's Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau. He can be reached at


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