(CNN) — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Monday night that he’s “not living in fear” of the novel coronavirus pandemic and is “all in” on lifting social distancing guidelines recommended by public health experts in order to help the economy.
Patrick, who said he turns 70 next week, would be among the high-risk population that is most affected by the coronavirus. But he said people like him have to weigh the hazards to their personal health that the virus poses with the challenges to health of the American economy brought on by social distancing guidelines.
“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’m all in,” Patrick told Fox News.
He added, “My messages is that 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+, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”
The suggestion directly contradicts recommendations put forth by government agencies and public health experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been urging “social distancing” — defined as “remaining out of places where people meet or gather” and “avoiding local public transportation” — even if you don’t have any symptoms of the virus as a way to slow the spread of the disease. The CDC has recommended that no gatherings of 50 or more people take place for eight weeks and adults 65 and over stay home, if possible.
The CDC reports that 8 in 10 coronavirus deaths reported in the US are among adults 65 years old and older.
State health officials on Monday reported more than 100 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day for the first time since the outbreak, according to a tally from CNN Health, surpassing 500 total deaths nationwide.
Still, Patrick’s comments echo a growing desire among some Republicans — including President Donald Trump — to ease guidelines that have shuttered businesses and kept workers at home.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this. It was not built to be shut down,” the President said during a Monday evening briefing at the White House, even as he acknowledged the effects of coronavirus are likely to worsen.
Reacting to Trump’s comments, Patrick said he talks to business people “all the time” and that his “heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the President say because we can do more than one thing at a time.”