HOUSTON — President Trump’s message that he wants the country to get back to work sooner rather than later has hit home with at least one senior state official — Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor.
Mr. Patrick, the Texas chairman of the president’s campaign, appeared on Fox News on Monday and said that he was not only ready for the country and the economy to get moving again amid the coronavirus pandemic, but also that he and other grandparents might be willing to die for that to happen.
“My message is that let’s get back to work,” Mr. Patrick, 69, said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”
He added: “I’m not living in fear of Covid-19. What I’m living in fear of is what’s happening to this country. And you know Tucker, 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’s the exchange, I’m all in.”
Many economists say that there is no clear-cut exchange, predicting that a return to normal business, travel and gatherings could worsen a recession and put intense stress on the health care system by causing many more people to sicken and die. Some state leaders, like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, have acknowledged conversations about how to restart state economies, but also said that they would not put business interests first.
“If it’s public health versus the economy, the only choice is public health,” Mr. Cuomo tweeted on Monday night. “You cannot put a value on human life.”
Mr. Patrick told Mr. Carlson that he did not want to appear to be morbid, but he said that if he became sick, he would try to get better, “but if I don’t, I don’t.” And later he added, “Tucker, I intend to be around a long time on your show, but it’s worth whatever it takes to save the country.”
At a news conference at the White House on Monday night, Mr. Trump said he would weigh whether to keep the economy so tightly closed after the current 15-day period, which is set to end Monday. He said the government could extend it another week and that some regions could reopen for business before others.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Mr. Trump said. “America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
Mr. Patrick said that he trusted the president’s judgment, should he decide to extend the period another week, but that some businesses could not wait an uncertain period of several more months. “I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed,” he said.
Manny Fernandez reported from Houston, and Alan Yuhas from New York.