As Donald Trump pushed to re-open the US economy in weeks, rather than months, the lieutenant governor of Texas went on Fox News to argue that he would rather die than see public health measures damage the US economy, and that he believed “lots of grandparents” across the country would agree with him.
“My message: let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Lt Gov Dan Patrick, a 69-year-old Republican, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Monday night.
“Don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick said. “Don’t do that.”
Patrick said he feared that public health restrictions to prevent coronavirus could end American life as he knows it, and that he is willing to risk death to protect the economy for his grandchildren.
“You know, Tucker, 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?’” Patrick said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”
“That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that,” he added. “I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me.”
At the White House’s coronavirus briefing Monday night, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx, said that emerging data from Europe suggested that 99% of the coronavirus deaths were people over age 50, and that many had pre-existing conditions. That “doesn’t change the need to protect the elderly”, Birx said.
Trump, who has raised concerns about the damage that coronavirus prevention measures are doing to the US economy, said he was eager to return for the country to return to normal as soon as possible, and suggested that an economic crisis might result in more deaths, through suicide, than a global pandemic.
He did not answer questions from journalists about whether he would abide by the advice of public health experts if they told him next week that the government needed to keep restrictive measures in place over the longer term to prevent the spread of the virus.
Patrick, a Texas Republican, praised the president’s focus on the economy on Monday and said that it had “lifted” his heart.
“I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed,” Patrick said. “I’ve talked to hundreds of people … and everyone says pretty much the same thing: We can’t lose our whole country. We’re having an economic collapse.”
“We’re going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society if this goes on for another several months,” Patrick said. “As the president said, the mortality rate is so low. Do we have to shut down the entire country for this? I think we can get back to work.”
Patrick said that, as someone who turns 70 next week, he was in the high-risk group, but that he was willing to give up his life for his six grandchildren.
“Look, I’m going to do everything I can do to live,” Patrick said. “But if you said, are you willing to take a chance … If I get sick, I’ll go and try to get better, but if I don’t, I don’t.”