What You Need to Know: Biden Inauguration, Dr. Levine and pandemic response

Written by on January 22, 2021

What You Need to Know: Biden Inauguration, Dr. Levine and pandemic response

By Brad Klein & Jen Rehill

January 22, 2021

[Left] Joe Biden giving his Inauuration speech on Jan. 20, 2021. AP Photo. [Right] Dr. Rachel Levine. Photo | Natalie Kolb / Commonwealth Media Services

In this week’s edition of our weekly series, What You Need to Know, WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with News Director, Jen Rehill about how the week’s national news affects the Lehigh Valley. They cover the Inauguration, the nomination of Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to the number two position in the Biden Health Department, and the changing state of the pandemic response

Listen to the episode.

Brad Klein:

“In politics, it’s been a time like no other. Just going back two and a half weeks to Jan. 6 when we had the storming of the Capitol, followed by the Electoral College vote count, then a week later, the impeachment of the president. A week later, on Jan. 20, the Inauguration of a new president and vice president.”

Jen Rehill:

“It’s been a real week of many firsts and a lot of history was made this week.

“One moment that really jumps out at me out of so many really we could talk about: I was seeing Kamala Harris, the first female vice president sworn into office, the first Black South Asian American woman to hold that office.

“Here in the Lehigh Valley, folks we talked to were all watching from home because, of course, this was the Inauguration that was happening under very intense security and also COVID-19 precautions. But WLVR’s Community Correspondent Genesis Ortega spoke with one of Allentown City Councilwoman Cynthia Mota this week. She had this really poignant moment where she talked about her daughter making the connection between her running for vice president of City Council and being elected to that post and Kamala Harris is the first woman of color in the nation’s vice-presidential post. And I think that echoed across lots of people when they were talking with their children and their daughters about this historic moment this week.” 


“I agree. It was really a moving thing to hear this week. 

“When we look at the Biden agenda, is it possible to ask how the changes that are underway will affect us here in the Lehigh Valley?”  


“There are a lot of things to talk about there, but in terms of the Lehigh Valley, there are a couple of things that jumped out at me right away.

“One is the impact on immigrant communities and folks who are undocumented in the Lehigh Valley. Biden is about to strengthen DACA and is going to change immigration policy, rework immigration reform at the national level, and that could have a big impact on a lot of families here in the Lehigh Valley.

“The second major thing, maybe the biggest thing everyone’s looking at, is policymaking and decision making, a national leadership on coronavirus and vaccines.” 


“And for us here in the Lehigh Valley and in all of Pennsylvania, of course, a breathtaking moment was the nomination of Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, to be Assistant U.S. Health secretary in the Biden administration.” 


“How about that, Brad? 

“Dr. Levine has really become a familiar name to us at WLVR and to a lot of Pennsylvanians as she has been delivering this, really clear, calm messaging around coronavirus and what folks could do to prevent the spread of the virus.

“She’s also going to be the first transgender federal official at this level. So her appointment is both a feather in Pennsylvania’s cap and also for folks who will be really happy to see that representation off a transgender official in high office in the nation.”  


“Another role model and, no doubt, the face of the pandemic response for Pennsylvania.” 




“So, speaking of the pandemic response, we also had the one year anniversary of the U.S.’s part of this global tragedy. Is it possible to summarize the latest news on the pandemic for Pennsylvania?” 


“Not quickly, Brad, but I’ll give it a shot. 

“So the good news is in Pennsylvania, new case counts are down. We’re looking at averages of around 5,000 or 6,000 new cases a day. That’s down from mid-December when we were seeing almost double those numbers. So, that’s great news.

“But Pennsylvania did see an awful milestone this week with more than 20,000 people who have died from the virus. That came in the same week that we surpassed the national milestone of 400,000 people have died from the virus.

“The other thing I would look at in terms of coronavirus and Pennsylvania has to do with vaccine distribution. The state, earlier this week, changed the rules about who can be in group 1A. This is the first group of people who can get the vaccine expanding it really significantly a pretty tightly closed group of first responders and healthcare workers working on the front line to include a lot of folks, regular folks with preexisting medical conditions.”


“We’ve reported that there are 3.5 million Pennsylvanians now in the 1A category who will be lining up for their turn at the vaccine.”


“And here in the Lehigh Valley, local health officials are trying to get the ball rolling. 

“The Allentown and Bethlehem health bureaus both set up vaccine clinics under these new guidelines. Now we know Lehigh Valley Health Network is planning to do a mass vaccination site at Dorney Park starting mid next week. They have some more stringent criteria. They say they could see up to 5,000 people a day, but it’s unclear if the supply of vaccines will be there to meet that demand.”


“Well, that is a story that’s going to be at the top of our attention in the coming week.

Sign up for our WLVR weekly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news from the Lehigh Valley and across Pennsylvania


Current track