AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' lieutenant governor said Monday night 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 earlier Monday 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.”
Asked about Patrick's comments, the AARP pointed to a statement released Tuesday that did not mention him or his remarks but urged Texans “and especially vulnerable older people” to follow CDC guidance.
"It’s clear that coronavirus is spreading rapidly here and has devastating, even deadly, impacts no matter age, gender, party affiliation or any other characteristic. Policymakers must act now to lessen the severity and death toll of this pandemic,” said Tina Tran, AARP's state director in Texas.
Patrick went on to suggest on the show that there were lots of grandparents like him and that he doesn't “want the whole country to be sacrificed.” His remarks were met with a swift backlash on social media, and on Tuesday, Patrick issued a statement that did not address older Americans but did say that if Trump decides more time is needed, he trusts the president's judgement.
Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
Patrick is a firebrand conservative and former talk radio show host who was elected to office in 2014. He was the Texas chairman of Trump's presidential campaign in 2016 and has pushed the Texas Senate that he oversees further to the right.
Texas has had more than 350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths related to the virus. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has resisted calling a stay-at-home order for all of Texas, but local officials in Dallas and San Antonio have issued such orders.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak