HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As the gubernatorial race comes down to the wire before Tuesday’s election, Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski is attacking Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont for his handling of the pandemic.

During a debate earlier this week, Stefanowski accused Lamont of putting “infected COVID patients coming out of hospitals into nursing homes.”

Lamont said that claim is false.

“Nobody put infected COVID patients back in with the general population in nursing homes,” Lamont said in response. “That’s absolutely false. Fortunately, we had true empty nursing homes, so we’re able to put them there. We had wings that were closed down.”

In 2020, elderly COVID-19 patients who no longer needed hospital care were moved to vacant nursing home buildings or empty wings of nursing homes.

About 4,140 COVID-related death in Connecticut were nursing home residents. More than half of those deaths occurred between April and June 2020.

The hospital beds became full, and elderly patients were put in cohort groups in nursing homes.

“Patients are not well enough to go home so you need to actually have patients be in a place where they can recover and the next phase of the continuum of care is going to be rehab facilities or long-term care facilities,” Sen. Saud Anwar (D-District 3) said.

“So you’re limiting visitation, you’re testing the staff everyday and right by is wheeling in an infected patient,” Stefanowski said. “I don’t care whether they are in a different wing, I don’t care if the nurse changed their gown. The point is we never should have done it.”

Backing Stefanowski is former public health commissioner Renee Coleman Mitchell.

Lamont fired her early in the pandemic. She is now suing him over her dismissal.

“He brags and boasts about how well he handled and his administration, that I was not a part of, handled COVID-19 and keeps that narrative out there hiding the fact that many lives were needlessly lost,” Mitchell said.

The health department disagrees, stating that per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, proper cohorting minimized the spread of the virus and it was called the safest approach by experts.

As of Tuesday, there have been 11,478 COVID-related deaths in Connecticut.