State accuses Grove, colleagues of spreading PPE conspiracy theories
State officials last week panned state Rep. Seth Grove and two colleagues, saying they amplified baseless claims the state had destroyed truckloads of personal protective equipment.
But while Grove, R-Dover Township, and the others have doubled down, also alleging they were locked out of the facility where equipment is stored when they wanted to have a tour and investigate, Gov. Tom Wolf's office insists the Republicans are peddling conspiracy theories.
"Instead of spreading lies and conspiracy theories, the members who spoke on camera earlier this week should focus on prioritizing public health and safety as we continue to navigate this pandemic," said Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger in a statement last week.
On Wednesday, Grove and two Republican colleagues held a news conference outside the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, where the state holds its PPE stockpile.
The lawmakers said they not only wanted to see how it was stored, but they also wanted to follow up after two unnamed sources reported truckloads of PPE were taken to the Harrisburg incinerator.
Grove was joined by Reps. Dan Moul, R-Adams, who accused the state of hiding something from the public, and Karen Boback, R-Luzerne.
When the lawmakers arrived for a 9 a.m. appointment to tour the facility, they said, they were locked out — allegedly because the state abruptly canceled the tour after they wouldn't sign nondisclosure agreements.
"We need to be able to analyze what transpired during this pandemic to determine what worked and what didn’t work," Grove said in a statement. "If we continue to be hindered, we will never get to those policies so we can develop laws to protect human life.”
Kensinger, however, said no PPE was ever burned. Instead, the government had disposed of expired COVID-19 test specimen collection tubes.
Disposing of the expired equipment is routine, and the medical community takes the same measures, she said.
In addition, Wolf's office stated that the lawmakers knew that the initial 9 a.m. appointment to tour the facility was no longer an option. Officials offered to provide a 3 p.m. tour that same day instead.
While lawmakers were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to Wolf's office, the lawmakers were not turned away from the possible 3 p.m. tour or any future tours if they did not sign it.
Grove did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But in a news release on Friday titled "Who's Really Lying," the Republicans tweaked their initial claims about PPE being destroyed.
The state "now admits some medical supplies stored at the state Farm Show Complex have been destroyed as claimed by state lawmakers this week," a joint statement from the lawmakers read.
“It is troubling that the administration felt the need to lock us out," the lawmakers wrote. "We think it is long past time to work together to bring Pennsylvania out of this pandemic, in an open and transparent manner that people expect.”
Wolf's office has said that details of the PPE stockpile must remain confidential to protect "strategic assets" that are used to help the state address and recover from emergencies.
Regardless, Kensinger said, the state continues to follow guidelines set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which include proving that the state has sufficient PPE to handle outbreaks.
"Again, the commonwealth has fulfilled every legitimate request submitted and there are no unmet needs requests at this time," Kensinger said.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.