Brian Stelter’s CNN show, “Reliable Sources,” hasn’t covered the scandal regarding New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home death toll.
On Sunday, however, Stelter’s show broke its silence and had a PolitiFact fact-checker on to make it clear how responsible Cuomo is for sending thousands of sick patients back into facilities to free up more beds:
Well, you know, it’s a complicated topic, but it could have been the employees who brought COVID-19 in.
Those reliable sources, holding Cuomo’s feet to the fire.
Angie Drobnic Holan, editor in chief of the Poynter Institute-affiliated fact-checking organization, appeared on Stelter’s show to talk about various fact-checking-related items.
One of them? Cuomo’s claim that he “should have been more aggressive against COVID death misinformation,” according to Stelter, who said the governor was “kind of blaming the media for the newfound scrutiny about nursing home deaths.”
The governor’s claim is essentially the same as, when one says something cretinous, apologizing by saying, “I’m sorry you didn’t understand what I was saying.” Except in this case, Cuomo’s orders — including his decision to send COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes when they hadn’t tested negative in order to free up hospital beds — cost lives.
But hold up, Holan said. PolitiFact looked into the situation and it’s not sure the evidence exists to pin this one on Cuomo.
“I think the situation in New York is really complicated. Certainly, there are things to criticize about how the Cuomo administration handled data,” she said.
“But the heart of the matter goes back to last year when the state was asking nursing homes to take in patients, COVID patients, who are ready to be discharged from the hospital. We don’t see hard evidence that that made a significant difference in COVID deaths.
“If you look at the statistics, New York is about having the same numbers as other states around the country. And the issue was employees, workers in the nursing homes who didn’t realize they were bringing COVID-19 into the nursing homes.
“So, it’s a really complicated situation. There’s not clear-cut answers here.”
Angie Drobnic Holan, EIC of PolitiFact, on Gov. Cuomo’s COVID nursing home scandal: “I think the situation in NY is really complicated…We don’t see hard evidence that [his order] made a significant difference in COVID deaths,” adds the “issue” was employees bringing in COVID. pic.twitter.com/iwUn7CWIqX
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) February 21, 2021
It’s a complicated situation, all right, considering that PolitiFact has looked at it several times so far. It recently found Cuomo’s claim that New York is “below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes” to be “Mostly True,” although this was made recently — long after he stopped sending infected patients back into nursing homes and after a year of COVID-19 had diluted the larger effect those deaths had.
Furthermore, PolitiFact noted that “new data shows [an] evolving picture.” That data has been evolving ever since New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the results of an investigation that found the state had undercounted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by over 50 percent and the revelation that a top aide to the governor admitted to Democrat legislators they’d withheld data.
But then there was this fact-check from Aug. 17 of last year, which is the more salient example: PolitiFact rated as “Mostly False” a statement blaming the nursing home deaths on Cuomo’s decision to put the COVID-positive patients back into those facilities.
“How much of the blame for the deaths of thousands of people in nursing homes from COVID-19 can be attributed to Cuomo’s March advisory?” the fact-check read. “That is the 6,000-person question.
“In a July analysis of COVID-19 nursing home deaths, the state concluded that the deadly virus was introduced by nursing home staff members rather than sick patients.
“It noted that peak nursing home resident mortality from COVID-19 on April 8 preceded the peak influx of COVID patients on April 14. In addition, it found that nearly 1 in 4 nursing home workers — 37,500 people — were infected with the virus between March and early June.
“Based on these and other factors, the report concluded that the state admissions policy could not have been a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.”
There are several issues here, the most obvious being that the relevant data was being skewed by a state government that didn’t want the real numbers in the public domain. It also assumes the nursing home workers got the coronavirus from outside as opposed to the other way around.
The study, commissioned by the New York State Department of Health, was called “pretty flawed” by Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at City University of New York School of Public Health, according to PolitiFact.
Another epidemiologist said it didn’t have the evidence to support its conclusions.
“I didn’t think they showed data to say [the policy] is not a ‘driver,'” said Rupak Shivakoti, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
And another thought it was prima facie farcical.
“To say that introducing patients [to nursing homes] who had COVID did not cause problems is ridiculous,” said Christopher Laxton, executive director of the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.
In recent weeks, however, PolitiFact has amended that fact check.
While it still remains “Mostly False,” the reason is that it was originally fact-checking Michael R. Caputo, a Trump administration official who tweeted it was the only causative agent.
“That rating was based on evidence that while the introduction of covid-19 positive patients into nursing homes no doubt had an effect on the spread of the coronavirus, Caputo’s statement suggested it was solely responsible. That’s not what the evidence showed, then or now,” a note at the top from Feb. 16 reads.
So what did Brian Stelter have to say to PolitiFact’s caviling on Cuomo’s policies?
According to a transcript: “Daniel and Angie, thank you both for coming on. For all today’s media news, sign up for our nightly Reliable Sources Newsletter.”
CNN and PolitiFact: Making sure Andrew Cuomo never has to face any difficult questions about his COVID-19 policy so long as he doesn’t want to, and shifting the blame to the innocent employees instead.
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