Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight on Monday and said he felt the risk of the novel coronavirus pandemic — which health experts say could overwhelm hospitals and lead to numerous unnecessary deaths if it isn’t controlled — was not more severe than the economic slowdown caused by society trying to stop more infections.
Patrick echoed sentiments that have grown louder this week among some conservatives.
That includes President Donald Trump, who’s suggested that the country should try to return to business as usual after a 15-day period of “social distancing,” even though health officials say that is almost certainly not enough time to contain the illness.
People over 60 and with underlying health conditions are most at risk from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, but others could also become severely ill. The worst cases require weeks-longs hospitalizations and ventilators.
Speaking to Carlson on Monday, Lt. Gov. Patrick, who is turning 70 and has six grandchildren, said that as someone in an at-risk group, he was not in favor of spending months in isolation with parts of the economy in limbo.
“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ ” he said. “And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”
He said he was “living smart” and following health guidelines, “like all people should,” but: “I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me …. what we love more than anything are those children, and I want to live smart and see through this. But I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed.”
“We can do more than one thing at a time,” Patrick said, adding, “Let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it.”
Trump tweeted Sunday, in all caps, that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” He has faced blowback from some other Republicans, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus,” Graham tweeted Monday.
The nation’s leading disease experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci (who is a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force), have maintained that returning to work with the threat of the coronavirus unresolved could cost lives.
Instead, social distancing has been urged — with employees working from home while restaurants and bars switch to takeout or delivery and classes are moved online, if possible — to avoid saturating hospitals as researchers work on possible treatments and a vaccine.
“We haven’t yet even seen signs that the growth is slowing, much less reversing. Now is the time to tighten restrictions on contacts that could transmit the virus, not loosen them,” Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch told The Washington Post. “If we let up now, we can be virtually certain that health care will be overwhelmed in many if not all parts of the country. This is the view of every well-informed infectious epidemiologist I know of.”
That was not Lt. Gov. Patrick’s concern, however.
“Let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living,” he said on Fox News. “Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”
Congress this week was hashing out a trillion-dollar relief bill for affected workers, businesses and others.
There have been more than 43,000 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus as of Tuesday, while 539 Americans have died, according to a New York Times tracker.
Worldwide, more than 398,000 people have contracted the virus and about 17,400 people have died.
“It’s incredible that this has to be said: Letting thousands of people needlessly suffer and die is wrong,” Hillary Clinton, who unsuccessfully challenged Trump in the 2016 election and who is a grandparent herself, tweeted Tuesday. “It’s also not a recipe for rescuing the economy.”
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