Gov. Wolf names Beam, Braund to Administration – state prison union pleas for vaccine priority

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Friday marked Dr. Rachel Levine’s last day as Secretary for the Pa. Department of Health. As a result, Governor Tom Wolf announced who he planned on replacing Levine with to fulfill her role as health secretary and physician general.

Gov. Wolf says he will nominate Alison Beam, his current Deputy Chief of Staff, for Secretary of Health and Dr. Wendy Braund as Acting Physician General.

Both women bring years of health and public service experience to the table. And although Beam does not have a doctorate, she graduated from Penn State with a health policy and administration degree.

She’s also who prison workers across the Commonwealth are making a desperate plea to Friday afternoon.

Members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Associations wrote a letter to Beam, asking her to consider bumping prison employees up in priority for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The union workers say it’s “repugnant to prioritize smokers before state employees who have a tough job in conditions where it’s extremely difficult to social distance,” as seen in prison outbreak across the Commonwealth.

One of these outbreaks happened at SCI Houtzdale in Clearfield County, infecting Corrections Officers Kyle Dixon. He died from the virus on Wednesday at 27.

“If, you know, these numbers were popping up in hospitals across the Commonwealth, people would be jumping up and down screaming to inoculate healthcare workers, and nobody is screaming on our behalf except for us,” said John Eckenrode, western region vice president of Pa. State Corrections Officers Association.

Eckenrode estimates that it would only take 22,000 vaccinations to protect prison employees, which he says is only a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

To donate to the Dixon family’s funeral expenses, click here.

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