Dan Patrick on coronavirus: 'More important things than living'

Texas' lieutenant governor was heavily criticized last month for suggesting that senior citizens might be willing to die of the coronavirus to save the economy.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Doha Madani

Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick doubled down on controversial comments he has made about the coronavirus pandemic, telling Fox News on Monday that Americans had to "take some risks" in reopening the economy.

Patrick was heavily criticized last month after he suggested in an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson that he and other senior citizens might be willing to die to save the economy. He stood by his statements in a new interview with Carlson on Monday night, saying, "We are crushing the economy."

"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," Patrick said Monday night.

He went on to say that he didn't want to die but that "we've got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running."

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The Texas Democratic Party said in a statement Tuesday 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 last week 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 on Friday 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."

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor, told Fox News' Sean Hannity last week that reopening schools would be an "appetizing opportunity" to get the country's "mojo" back and that it would cost only about 2 percent to 3 percent of lives. Oz later apologized for the comments.

"I've realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention," Oz said Thursday on Twitter. "I misspoke."

Some Southern governors have begun loosening restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus, although some health officials have warned that it may be too soon.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp granted businesses across the state permission to reopen later this week, while South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster gave permission for many retail businesses to reopen Monday.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he won't extend the state's stay-at-home order beyond April 30, hoping to allow some businesses to reopen by the beginning of next month.

The president for weeks spoke about his desire to reopen the economy, as more than 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March. And on Thursday, Trump unveiled a three-phase plan for states to reopen.

Trump's plan put the onus on states to reopen, emphasizing that all people should continue to minimize nonessential travel and continue to practice social distancing when in public.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that a May 1 reopening might be too early.

"We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we're not there yet," Fauci told The Associated Press last week.

Fauci warned that with limits on testing capabilities, it would be difficult to prevent new infection clusters from sprouting as areas roll back social distancing safeguards.

"I'll guarantee you, once you start pulling back, there will be infections," Fauci said. "It's how you deal with the infections that's going to count."