No, Dan Patrick, old people shouldn’t die — but we aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously
Something about a pandemic brings out the best in people and the worst. It shows us who we really are, whether we choose to see it or not.
There is no better contrast than Chicago epidemiologist Emily Landon and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the value of life.
Both believe that sacrifices must be made during the coronavirus pandemic, but they disagree on who should be making them.
Landon thinks that every life — regardless of age — is worth saving. Patrick suggests that the elderly are expendable.
The notion that some Americans are disposable during a health crisis is one of the most chilling realities to come out of America’s response. Patrick took it to a new low on Monday.
Appearing on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the nearly 70-year-old Republican suggested that the elderly might be willing to sacrifice their lives to preserve the economy for their children and grandchildren.
“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?’ ” he said. “And if that is the exchange, I am all in.”
In other words, anyone who has lived beyond their usefulness should consider getting out of the way so that everyone else can go back to work and return to living their fun and exciting lives.
Then there are people like Landon, the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, who sees firstthe hand what the rest of us can only imagine regarding the toll this virus is taking on our health care system.
She reminded us that life is precious. And she challenged those of us who believe that to make a sacrifice by simply staying at home.
“I know we will get through this together and find a way back to the life that we used to live,” she said at a news conference Friday. “Public health and hospitals have been working hard for a long time, and now it’s your turn to do your part. This is a huge sacrifice to make but a sacrifice that can make thousands of differences, maybe even a difference in your family too.”
That struck a chord with a lot of people. Her brief remarks were shared over and over across the country. Perhaps it was the absence of judgment in her voice when she asked the healthy and optimistic not to doom vulnerable. Maybe it was the mild tone in which she warned that America’s hospitals are not equipped to handle an influx of people requiring beds, oxygen and ventilators.
Maybe it was the kind way in which she asked us to be considerate of the many doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are putting their lives on the line in order to save ours, even with inadequate protective gear.
Or maybe it was her brutal honesty in telling us that while this brutal pandemic indeed will end, many of the most vulnerable Americans could die.
It is likely that Landon struck a chord because most Americans are more like her than Patrick. We aren’t willing to sacrifice our elderly in exchange for the convenience of going out to Easter brunch. But we cannot ignore the growing chorus of those at this moment who are sacrificing the health of the elderly and others by roaming our cities at will. Nor can we underestimate the power of corporate America to demand that politicians get things moving again.
According to recent polls, fewer people now believe the pandemic is a real threat than they did a month ago. Increasingly, people are beginning to think that the coronavirus is being blown out of proportion, surveys show. Less than half of them are voluntarily changing their behaviors.
Soon, Americans could be at a crossroads. President Donald Trump has indicated that he’d like to see things start returning to normal by Easter. We might have to decide what’s more important: saving lives or getting the stock market going again. For most people, the choice is easy. The lives of their parents or grandparents are far more valuable than a thriving 401(k).