Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick raised some eyebrows in March 2020 when he seemingly suggested during an appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that exposing vulnerable, older members of the U.S. population to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was a reasonable trade-off for getting the U.S. “back to work” and “back to living”:
Texas’ lieutenant governor said that the U.S. should get back to work in the face of the global pandemic and that people over the age of 70, who the Centers for Disease Control says are at higher risk for the coronavirus, will “take care of ourselves.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the comments while appearing on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Patrick, 69, went on the program after President Donald Trump said that he wanted the country getting back to business in weeks, not months.
“Let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it,” Patrick said. “And those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”
Patrick raised even more eyebrows the following month when, according to social media postings, he declared (in reference to the lockdowns prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak) that “there are more important things than living”:
Indeed, on April 20, 2020, Patrick again appeared as a guest on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and echoed his earlier remarks on that program in questioning whether the threat posed by the coronavirus disease was exaggerated and worth the trade-off of shutting down businesses for a prolonged period of time:
At the end of January, Dr. Fauci, who I have great respect for, said this wasn’t a big issue. Three weeks later, we were gonna lose two million people. Another few weeks later, it was one- to two-hundred thousand. Now it’s under 60,000, and we’ve had the wrong numbers, the wrong science. And I don’t blame them, but let’s face [the] reality of where we are. In Texas, we have 29 million people, [and] we’ve lost 495. Every life is valuable, but 500 people out of 29 million and we’re locked down. And we’re crushing the average worker, we’re crushing small business, we’re crushing the markets, we’re crushing this country. And what I said when I was with you that night, there are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children, and my grandchildren, and saving this country for all of us. And I don’t wanna die. Nobody wants to die. But we gotta take some risks, and get back in the game, and get this country back up and running.
As NBC News reported of Patrick’s controversial remarks, he is not alone in expressing the viewpoint that the importance of maintaining a functioning economy outweighed the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic:
The Texas Democratic Party said in a statement that Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott would put Texans at risk to enrich business interests.
“They would see our family members die to bail out Wall Street,” the statement said. “The lives of our families, our friends, and our communities have no dollar amount. Texas Republicans can no longer claim to be the pro-life party anymore.”
Other prominent voices have echoed Patrick’s comments. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., said that deaths due to the coronavirus were “the lesser of these two evils” compared to a failing economy.
Economist Stephen Moore, who has served as an adviser to President Donald Trump, told CBS News that the economy must reopen soon. Moore said the effort to save every life by shutting down business was unwittingly “causing huge hardship for citizens.”
Critics of that viewpoint maintained that the COVID-19 mortality figures had been relatively low precisely because of the social-distancing and lockdown measures put into effect, and that loosening those restrictions to allow closed-down businesses to start operating again would risk producing a significant increase in the number of coronavirus deaths.