Critics Lash Pennsylvania GOP House Speaker After Questionable COVID-19 Post

Rep. Mike Turzai's chief of staff says he was simply pointing out the vulnerabilities of Pennsylvanians to the disease.

Twitter critics piled on Pennsylvania’s Republican speaker of the House Saturday after he tweeted the percentage of people who died after contracting COVID-19 who had underlying health issues, as part of a “Reopening Pennsylvania” campaign.

The stats posted by Rep. Mike Turzai ended with urging the state to get back to business “safely, compassionately” and “urgently.”

People on Twitter appeared to interpret the tweet in the worst possible way: that people who died after coronavirus were already sick, so it’s not a huge concern if more of them die as the state reopens.

Turzai’s Chief of Staff Neal Lesher told HuffPost in an email that the tweet is “simply reporting public health data that the Pennsylvania Department of Health should be reporting to the public, but is not.” The data “exposes the vulnerability of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable population in nursing homes, personal care facilities, and assisted living facilities,” he added.

“For anyone to suggest that the Speaker does not care about our vulnerable populations is either playing politics or not paying attention to what’s going on,” Lesher insisted.

The Pennsylvania death toll was already up 582 Saturday from the outdated Wednesday data Turzai used in the tweet.

Turzai unveiled a bill Thursday with extra protections for nursing homes, following the deaths of more than 2,300 residents in Pennsylvania nursing or personal care facilities.

But he’s also a staunch backer of reopening the state as quickly as possible, and has blasted as “outrageous” the possibility that schools might not open in the fall.

The underlying health conditions cited by Turzai in his Reopening Pennsylvania tweet are relatively common among Americans, which several comments pointed out. Other critics found it a strange message from a party associated with the “pro-life” movement. “Over 65?” one meme asked slyly. “Consider becoming a MAGA martyr.”

Turzai announced in January that he is not seeking re-election this year, and will instead pursue unspecified work in the private sector.

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