A Texas official already notorious for his views on the threat from coronavirus has said he will no longer listen to advice from Dr Anthony Fauci — even as Texas confronts record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalisations a few weeks after lifting its lockdown.
Interviewed on Fox News by veteran conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, lieutenant governor Dan Patrick scorned the idea that locking down was the way to curb the state’s soaring numbers, and vented his disgust at the country’s most visible public health adviser for his warnings about the Texas outbreak.
“We’ve had 2,424 people die, and New York has had over 31,000. Even California has had almost three times as much as Texas. And remember, Laura, those two states have been locked down the whole time, while we have been open,” he said.
“So locking down doesn’t work. If it did, those two states would be going better than Texas.”
Mr Patrick’s disparaging of lockdown measures sits awkwardly against the available data, including from California, whose current surge of infections began after governor Gavin Newsom allowed counties to start lifting their lockdowns in stages.
Texas’s reopening, which began in late May, has now been paused by governor Greg Abbott, to whom Mr Patrick is second-in-command. On Sunday, Mr Abbott said that over the prior week, the outbreak had taken “very swift and very dangerous” turn, with cities including Houston preparing for an influx of patients akin to that seen in New York in March and April.
The state yesterday saw a new daily record of 7,000 confirmed infections, and hospitalisations have tripled in the past month. And while the number of tests has been rising, the rate of tests coming back positive has almost doubled since the spring.
Dr Fauci told a senate committee yesterday that he was concerned about the situation in Texas, as well as Florida, Arizona and California, saying that some states “skipped” certain stages of reopening protocols — though he did not name Texas specifically.
Mr Patrick, however, was furious at the merest suggestion that his state had been premature in allowing its economy to start reopening.
“Fauci said today that he’s concerned about states like Texas that ‘skipped over certain things’. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him,” he said.
“You [Ms Ingraham] had a lot of doctors on your show from day one, your doctors have been right almost every time, and he has been wrong every time, on every issue. I don’t need his advice any more. We’ll listen to a lot of science, we’ll listen to a lot of doctors, and governor Abbott, myself and other state leaders, we’ll make the decision. No thank you, Dr Fauci.”
Mr Patrick has long been a vocal opponent of lockdown measures, saying in the spring that older Americans should accept the risk of dying from the virus so that the US could keep the economy open and “preserve the American way of life” — and on another occasion commenting “there are more important things than living”.
For her part, Ms Ingraham is well-known for her early scepticism about the coronavirus, for which she was lampooned on Saturday Night Live in early March. In the first stages of the outbreak, she focused her commentary on the idea that the threat from the virus was being amplified and “weaponised” by Democrats in an attempt to boost their electoral chances against Donald Trump.
She was also one of several Fox News hosts who collectively devoted hours of airtime to promoting hydroxychloroquine — a medication that some, including Mr Trump himself, claimed could help treat Covid-19. After several studies finding it had no significant beneficial effects, the FDA effectively ruled it out for use on Covid-19 patients.
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