PolitiFact will not say whether it plans to retract or revise an article it published in August defending New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deadly nursing home policy.
The so-called fact-check singles out former assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Caputo for faulting Cuomo for enacting policies that caused thousands of COVID-19 deaths in elderly assisted care and nursing home residents throughout the state.
“Does the #DemConvention know @NYGovCuomo forced nursing homes across NY to take in COVID positive patients and planted the seeds of infection that killed thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers?” Caputo wrote shortly after Cuomo spoke on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.
Shortly after Caputo tweeted, PolitiFact scurried to rate his claim “mostly false,” citing an “unclear” line between the governor’s March 2020 policy, which sent many contagious patients recovering from the virus back to their care facilities from hospitals, and the deaths of more than 9,000 elderly residents.
“Infection control is a longstanding problem in nursing homes that predates the pandemic and a report showed peak numbers of nursing home deaths came prior to the peak influx of patients as a result of Cuomo’s advisory,” the article author Michelle Andrews wrote. “While the introduction of COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes no doubt had an effect on infection spread, Caputo’s statement suggests it was solely responsible. That’s not what the evidence shows.”
While the article admits that Cuomo’s fatal advisory faced scrutiny from multiple people and went against recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the author used a faulty report conducted by the state’s Health Department and Cuomo, who claimed last summer that the state did nothing wrong and that most of the patients returned to nursing homes “were no longer contagious when admitted and therefore were not a source of infection.”
“Though some epidemiologists and nursing home advocates questioned the report’s methods and findings, public health experts agreed with the report’s conclusion — based on the timeline — that nursing home staffers and visitors, before they were banned, were likely the main drivers of COVID-19 infection and death in nursing homes,” the PolitiFact article states.
The article also claims that while Cuomo urged the return of recovering patients to their respective care facilities, “state and federal rules didn’t force nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients, but many of them believed they had no other choice.”
In addition to running cover for Cuomo, painting his deadly policy as simply seeking to “free up hospital beds,” the article also made a point to further scrutinize Caputo’s tweet by noting it is unclear “how many of the dead were grandmothers and grandfathers.”
While New York state Attorney General Letitia James recently found that Cuomo, his administration, and the state’s Health Department severely undercounted the number of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent and Cuomo’s top aide admitted that the state’s top office purposefully hid the nursing home COVID-19 death toll out of fear of a federal investigation, PolitiFact did not respond to The Federalist when asked whether it plans to retract, revise, or issue a correction on the “mostly false”-rated “fact-check.”
Update Feb. 16, 2021: PolitiFact added an editor’s note to the top of the “fact-check” acknowledging the attorney general’s report, but refused to change its rating. Caputo’s original statement is still labeled as “mostly false.”