During Donald Trump's Fox News town hall on the coronavirus outbreak, the Great Man made a shocking accusation: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to put your Nana in front of a DEATH PANEL because Cuomo was too cheap to buy enough ventilators for the state's hospitals a few years back. Shocking! And Trump even had some serious journalism to cite: The Gateway Pundit, the idiot conspiracy site run by Jim Hoft, the Stupidest Man on the Internet.

Here's Trump, very definitely "not blaming" Cuomo or anything, just reading a Gateway Pundit headline word for word:

Trump tried to hand a printout of the piece to Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, who didn't take it, either because of social distancing or a fear that anything Trump touches turns to shit. Cuomo had criticized the feds earlier today for only sending 400 ventilators to New York, saying, "You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators!? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000 ventilators?" Well Trump had his number!

But he should have ordered the ventilators, and he had a choice, he had a chance because right here, I just got this out, that he refused to order 15,000 ventilators. [...]

It says "New York Governor Cuomo rejected buying recommended $16,000 ventilators in 2015 for the pandemic, for a pandemic, established death panels, and lotteries instead"

Yep, that's verbatim from America's most reliable news source with ads every other paragraph:



To be clear, this wasn't any original conspiracy-mongering from the House of Hoft. Instead, it was a retread and big blockquote from a syndicated column by health-conspiracy weirdo Betsy McCaughey, the genius who made up "Death Panels" back when Barack Obama was trying to kill grandma Suzie with socialism. Which is far worse than Donald Trump trying to kill Grandma Suzie for the stock market, because at least that's capitalism.

The point here is that you've got a couple different levels of Excitable Hyperventilating Bullshit Merchants at work here -- McCaughey's original bullshit filtered through the Stupidest Site On the Internet. Let's start with a Truth Sandwich before we look at the creamy bullshit filling, shall we? We'll start with this decidedly not-breathless explanation from the Gotham Gazette:

In 2015, the [New York Department of Health's] New York State Task Force on Life and the Law developed guidelines for ventilators in a influenza pandemic, which [Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard] Zucker described as "a foreseeable threat" in the report's introduction. While the task force's guidelines were designed with a "severe pandemic" in mind, the DOH spokesperson said that it is not a binding policy document steering the state's response, though it has been well circulated and read recently within the Department.

The 272-page document lays out guidelines for triaging available ventilators in a severe pandemic, with separate sections devoted to care for adults, children, and babies, with an emphasis on saving the most lives possible given a limited number of ventilators, and identifying factors that would weigh against treatment, such as "immediate or near-immediate mortality even with aggressive therapy," for instance.

The Gazette piece also notes, almost as if were writing a pre-buttal to McCaughey, that "Advanced age, disability, [and] 'social worth,' are not exclusion criteria under the guidelines."

Also worth noting: the FAQ sheet accompanying the 2015 report is careful to emphasize that in an extreme pandemic, no amount of advance stockpiling would be able to prevent difficult triage decisions:

Q: Can the State stockpile as many ventilators as would be needed in a severe pandemic?

A:
Even if New York State purchases additional ventilators, the demand would quickly outpace supply in a severe pandemic. No matter how many ventilators are available, in a severe pandemic there will be shortages because so many people will be sick at the same time. In addition, even with enough ventilators, a sufficient number of trained staff may not be available to operate them, particularly because health care workers will be among the ill.

So there's your facts!

And from that mere reality, McCaughey's column spins this DEATH PANEL drivel:

After learning that the state's stockpile of medical equipment had 16,000 fewer ventilators than New Yorkers would need in a severe pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to a fork in the road in 2015. He could have chosen to buy more ventilators. Instead, he asked his health commissioner, Howard Zucker to assemble a task force and draft rules for rationing the ventilators they already had.

That task force came up with rules that will be imposed when ventilators run short. Patients assigned a red code will have the highest access, and other patients will be assigned green, yellow or blue (the worst) depending on a "triage officer's" decision. In truth, a death officer. Let's not sugarcoat it. It won't be up to your own doctor.

The stuff about "death officers" is standard McCaughey fare, turning the awful realities of medicine -- you can't save every life even in the best of situations -- into a fantasy where if only Cuomo had made better choices, everyone would live. Presumably, McCaughey would undoubtedly look at any textbook on triage in emergency medicine and proclaim it a DEATH MANUAL.

As the nice folks at Mediaite point out -- and as the FAQ language above makes clear -- McCaughey just plain makes up the claim that Cuomo rejected stockpiling 16,000 ventilators for a rainy (or sputum-y) day, and instead opted for a plan for death panels. It's a clever fabrication on her part, not even as real as making non-surgical face masks out of three layers of underpants.

Nonetheless, McCaughey, presumably with a medical supply catalog in hand, did some quick figuring and turned that into a "choice" that Cuomo never actually made. Even worse, he wasted all that ventilator money on "green energy," which isn't even a real thing!

Cuomo could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015. It's a lot of money but less than the $750 million he threw away on a boondoggle "Buffalo Billion" solar panel factory. When it comes to state budget priorities, spending half a percent of the budget on ventilators is a no brainer.

The factory she's complaining about, we should note, employs 1,500 people; maybe that's a boondoggle, maybe not. But it must be bad, because why did those people accept the blood money Cuomo spent for the factory instead of ventilators?

So please leave aside the fact that Cuomo never actually decided against stockpiling 16,000 ventilators. Trump said it on TV, not that he's judging, and now that is the established rightwing fact.

Strangely, the Gateway Pundit hasn't (yet) taken a victory lap for Trump citing its headline. To make up for it, the New York Post, which ran the same syndicated McCaughey column last week, did the honors, taking credit for Trump's astounding claim, because these people are all grifters.

In conclusion, Donald Trump hasn't screwed up the coronavirus response. Andrew Cuomo did, five years ago, and Trump is very, very disappointed that Cuomo didn't act when he still had time.

OPEN THREAD, everyone, go!

[Gotham Gazette / Mediaite / RealClearPolitics / NYP / 2015 New York Ventilator Allocation Guidelines / Guidelines FAQ]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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