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Dr. Rachel Levine Becomes First Openly Transgender Person Confirmed by Senate

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Dr. Rachel Levine will serve as assistant secretary of health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

What We Know:

  • On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate elected Levine in a 52-48 vote. Politicians from both parties voted in Levine’s favor. Important voters included Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me).
  • The election comes at a difficult time for the transgender-rights movement. Recently, legislatures across the country, the majority of which are under Republican control, are attempting to pass bills discriminating against transgender youths. One proposal introduced in around 25 states will ban trans girls from being on their school’s female sports teams. Another bill presented in 17 states wants to restrict or illegalize certain medical care for transgender youths. According to Bloomberg.com, these measures are yet to be approved.
  • Democratic politicians urged the Senate to vote for Levine. For example, President Joe Biden was an adamant supporter of Levine. In a January statement, Biden said Levine would bring poised leadership and expertise needed to help people overcome the pandemic. Prior to voting, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked her colleagues that Levine was a  “trusted voice” on matters such as opioid prescription guidelines, health equity, and LGBTQ healthcare.

“I’m proud to vote for Dr. Levine and incredibly proud of the progress this confirmation will represent, for our country and for transgender people all across it who are watching today,” said Murray.

  • During last month’s confirmation hearing for Levine, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asked antagonistic questions. He demanded to know if Levine thought minors could make a life-changing decision such as switching genders. NPR states that Paul also compared sex reassignment operations to genital mutilation.
  • Rand also inquired about her stance on hormone treatment and puberty blockers. Levine responded courteously, stating that transgender medicine is a “very complex and nuanced field” with sufficient research and care standards. She also said she was willing to have conversations about the topic with Paul.
  • The conservative Family Research Council opposed her election. They stated that in addition to her beliefs on transgender medical care, she supported pro-abortion and anti-religious freedom measures as Pennsylvania’s health secretary. Family Research Council Vice President Travis Weber said that Levine might be ” the most extreme radical ever confirmed by the Senate.”

Alongside serving as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She has written pieces about the opioid crisis, medicinal marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine. She told the Washington Post in 2016 she intends to be remembered for her work, not her gender.

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Senate Prepares to Move Forward with Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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On Monday, the Senate pushed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after its legislative language was completed and unveiled. Senators who created the proposal expect it to clear the upper chamber in the following days.

What We Know:

  • Senate negotiators completed the 2,702-page bill on Sunday night. The bill, known as H.R. 3684, aims to provide $550 billion to fund the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and public transit systems.
  • Since then, the Senate began taking up two amendments to the proposal. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previewed three bipartisan amendments for consideration. Currently, it is uncertain how many amendments the Senate will consider. However, Schumer wants to vote on amendments quickly; he also noted that the first three “constitute only the first tranche of potential amendments.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commented that H.R. 3684’s text lays out “a good and important jumping point for what needs to be a robust and bipartisan process” on the Senate floor. McConnell added that an “artificial timetable” must not affect the Senate’s “full consideration” of the bill.
  • On July 28, the bipartisan group of Senators and the White House reached an agreement on H.R. 3684’s details. Officials also voted 66-28 on the deal, which opened the package to potential changes during the amendment process. After this, Senators worked throughout the weekend to hammer out the legislative language.
  • If the Senate passes H.R. 3684, it will be a significant victory for President Joe Biden. A key proposal in his economic agenda, Biden boasted on the impact H.R. 3684 will hold on the nation. On Sunday, he tweeted that the deal is the most important investment in America’s public transit history. He additionally stated the bill will impact the U.S. just as much as the invention of the Amtrak 50 years ago.

If Congress approves H.R. 3684, it will ensure that Democrats may begin work on a $3.5 trillion proposal that focuses on Biden’s plans for childcare, healthcare, education, the environment, and possibly immigration. Doing so will ensure another success on Pres. Biden’s behalf.

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Coronavirus

Florida Breaks Record for COVID-19 Hospitalizations

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Florida recently saw 10,207 hospitalizations caused by coronavirus cases, the highest number since July 23, 2020.

What We Know:

  • On July 23, 2020, Florida reached a high of 10,170 hospitalizations, just six months before the COVID-19 vaccine became available. The new record makes Florida the leader in per capita hospitalizations for the virus.
  • Most of the new cases come from the highly contagious Delta variant. On average, Florida sees 1,525 adult and 35 children hospitalizations daily. In addition, Saturday revealed a peak in positive numbers, as the stated reported  21,683 occurrences of COVID-19. The day prior, the Sunshine State saw 17,093 cases.
  • Many hospital employees believed the excess hospitalizations would end soon because of an increase in vaccinations. However, the Delta variant changed all this. The Associated Press wrote that several hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic Florida and the UF Health North emergency room, needed to operate overcapacity and put beds in hallways to treat patients; the Mayo Clinic will continue to do so until the current surge ends. In Tampa, some local ambulances already needed to divert ambulances to other locations because of capacity concerns.
  • The higher numbers also are a direct result of a loosening of restrictions and a governor’s stubbornness. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis actively declares he will not enact any more mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Along with the state Legislature, this makes it difficult for local officials to impose restrictions that will ease the positive numbers.
  • Medical officials scorned DeSantis for his adamance on the issue. Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based vascular cardiologist and Florida State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, commented that the state would not be in its position now if DeSantis focused more on lowering cases than proving Dr. Anthony Fauci wrong. Gainesville infectious disease expert Dr. Frederick Southwick agreed with Ashby’s statement, saying that DeSantis needed to stop acting like “Florida won the pandemic.”

DeSantis recently announced that Florida would resist any federal authorities’ campaigns to enforce mask mandates inside schools despite the criticism.

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NY Attorney General: Gov. Cuomo harassed women, tried to retaliate against accuser

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NEW YORK — Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced the findings of her inquiry into accusations against Andrew Cuomo, concluding that the governor sexually harassed multiple women. James said victims included current and former employees, and that Cuomo tried to retaliate against at least one woman who came forward. Over 179 people were interviewed.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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