Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick is willing to lay down his life to save the stock market. At least that's what he's claiming on Fox News. On Monday night, Patrick spoke to Tucker Carlson about the novel coronavirus outbreak, and he condemned efforts to fight the outbreak that involve temporarily shuttering nonessential business to prevent the spread of the virus. People over the age of 65—coincidentally the median age for Fox News's audience—are at the greatest risk of suffering from more serious health complications from the disease, and the 69-year-old Patrick told Carlson that none of that deters him.
"Tucker," Patrick said, "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 all America loves for your children and grandchildren?' And if that is the exchange, I'm all in. And that doesn't make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and 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. And that's what I see."
While people over the age of 65 are particularly endangered by the disease, young people are still susceptible to it. An estimated 40 percent of people sick enough to be hospitalized by COVID-19 are between ages 20 and 54, and in China people under 70 make up 50 percent of coronavirus deaths. On top of that, American hospitals are already under-equipped for this relatively early stage of the crisis. The point of social distancing is to slow the spread of the disease—since the U.S. acted too late and ineffectively to contain it—to keep hospitals and staff from getting even more overwhelmed. Even when it doesn't kill, coronavirus can still land people in the hospital, and a lack of supplies and shortage of doctors can be disastrous for people hospitalized for non-COVID-19 reasons, as well. And a greater surge in cases also puts doctors and other healthcare workers at a greater risk of getting sidelined or dying themselves. A steely resolve to face death in the hope of a market rally won't change any of that.
In his appearance with Tucker Carlson, Patrick, who just last year campaigned to defund all Texas abortion providers in the name of "the sanctity of life," vastly underplayed the threat COVID-19 poses. Texas may be a relatively young state, with a median age of 34 as of the last state census, but there are still more than 3.6 million people who are 65 or older living there. Currently, Texas has more than 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and there have been at least five related deaths.
But Patrick's comments are just a much blunter version of the same message that some other conservatives are promoting. On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump tweeted, "Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!" While the Fox News offices have been hit with several confirmed cases of COVID-19, the idea isn't uncommon among some Fox News hosts and other conservatives that nationwide social distancing and the resulting economic freeze is a potentially bigger disaster than the disease itself. Speaking on a panel Sunday, Turning Points USA head Charlie Kirk said he wants to see more emphasis on "relieving some of the quarantine and allowing the American entrepreneur to be liberated." Host Laura Ingraham tweeted, "Americans need to know date certain when this will end. The uncertainty for businesses, parents and kids is just not sustainable." And while public health experts have been encouraging to people to stay home to "flatten the curve," meaning keep the rate of infection from spiking by accelerated rates of infection, Fox News's Steven Hilton spent a recent show demanding the government "flatten the curve, not the economy."
Not all conservatives are hopping on that bandwagon. Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney tweeted: "There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus."
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization warned that America could become the next epicenter of the global pandemic, with a spokesperson saying we are "now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US.” A new Financial Times graphic shows America's death rate rapidly rising.
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Originally Appeared on GQ