Texas Lt. Governor Clarifies ‘Get Back to Work' Statement Amid Global Pandemic

Experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread

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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 to get back to business in weeks, not months.

"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 am all in." He also said, “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.”

Within hours, Patrick was trending on Twitter.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilbert Hinojosa said, “Texas Democrats believe healthcare is a human right. The lives of our families, our friends, and our communities have no dollar amount.”

A spokeswoman for Patrick did not immediately return to an email seeking comment late Monday, but on Tuesday his office released the following statement to clarify his position on when people should get back to work.

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"I was very clear last night that we should continue President Trump's 15-day plan and if he believes we need more time, then we need more time. I trust his judgment. But at some point, sooner rather than later, we must get back to work before our nation totally collapses."

"We can do two things at once -- address the health care crisis and get people their jobs back -- while following the CDC guidelines in a smart way."

"When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream."

Former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi came to Patrick's defense on Twitter.

In Washington Tuesday, NBC asked Sen. John Cornyn about Patrick's comments.

"I don't think he is going to have to make that choice. Hopefully we will kill the virus, and then we'll prop up our economy and the jobs that go along with it," said Cornyn.

During a news conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was also asked about what Patrick said.

"The first step we all have, and the primary obligation we all have, is public health and safety. We must do all we can to ensure the health and safety of everyone to save every life, to get everyone through COVID-19, minimizing the loss of life," said Abbott. He added, "Second, is this reality. If the goal is to get the economy going, the best thing we can do to get the economy going is to get COVID-19 behind us. We must bend the curve on the growth of the coronavirus in Texas. As soon as we do that, the economy will come roaring back."

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

Health experts have made clear that unless all 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that people 65 years and older are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and eight out of 10 deaths in the U.S. from the disease have been from adults in that age group. 

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 Gov. Greg Abbott says he is not implementing a statewide shelter-in-place order because the virus has not been found in the vast majority of the state’s counties.

Texas has 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.

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. Worldwide, more than 375,000 cases have been reported, and while most people recover in weeks, more than 16,000 have died from the virus.

How to Avoid COVID-19 Infection:

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

*Information shared from the Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Copyright NBC 5 and the Associated Press.
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