Despite Texas’ surge of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday evening that he doesn’t need the advice of the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci.
“Fauci said today he’s concerned about states like Texas that ‘skipped over’ certain things. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Patrick told Fox News host Laura Ingraham in an interview. “We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him.”
Patrick also said Fauci has “been wrong every time on every issue.” While he initially did not elaborate on specifics, the lieutenant governor pointed Wednesday afternoon to an example from January when Fauci told Newsmax that the coronavirus was “not a major threat.” (According to Politifact, Fauci did say that twice in late January, when there were a handful of reported COVID-19 cases in the country, and that Americans should not fret. But both times, Fauci added that the situation could change.)
Since Fauci’s initial remarks, however, case numbers have risen nationally. And during a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday, Fauci said the nation is going in the “wrong direction” with coronavirus cases.
“It could get very bad,” Fauci said, warning that new cases “could go up to 100,000 a day” if people continue to defy advice on social distancing and face masks. He said states like Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have had to roll back reopening plans as cases in those states climb, noting that half of the new cases nationwide have been reported in those states.
The sharp increase in new infections and hospitalizations rates, he said, has also jeopardized reopening plans throughout the country.
“We’ve got to make sure that when states start to try and open again, they need to follow the guidelines that have been very carefully laid out, with regard to checkpoints,” Fauci said. “What we’ve seen in several states are different iterations of that, perhaps maybe in some going too quickly and skipping over some of the checkpoints.”
The White House has outlined those checkpoints; before proceeding with a phased economic comeback, states are encouraged to satisfy criteria related to case numbers, testing and hospital capacity.
Fauci is not the only expert sounding the alarm on case numbers in Texas. Earlier this week, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, included Austin in a group of metro areas she categorized as “concerning” given the city’s positivity rate over the past seven days.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars across the state for a second time as part of a series of moves to contain a coronavirus spike in Texas. He also scaled back restaurant occupancy to 50%, shut down rafting and tubing businesses, and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless approved by local officials.
On Tuesday, Patrick said closing bars was “the right decision.”
“In my view, the worst thing we can do is to lock down Texas again. That’s not what Gov. Abbott wants. That’s not what I want,” he said. “But we need help from the young people out there to help bring these number of cases down and free up hospital beds.”
Patrick sparked a firestorm for saying in an earlier Fox News appearance he would rather perish from the new coronavirus than see the economy destroyed for his grandchildren by overreaction to the disease.
“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,” he said in March.
Statewide, more than 6,500 patients in Texas were hospitalized with the coronavirus Tuesday, a record-breaking number and a figure that has gone up nearly every day since June 1. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 1,405 available staffed intensive care unit beds statewide and 13,711 available hospital beds, but with regional disparities.
The increase in infections here came as the local leaders have pleaded with Abbott to allow them to issue stay-at-home orders or mandate face coverings. “We are having an experiment, a gamble, in the hopes that we can be the first community that suddenly flattens the curve without a stay-at-home order,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who represents parts of Houston, one of the country’s fastest-growing coronavirus hot spots.
In his Tuesday interview, Patrick told Ingraham that the state will make further decisions based on listening to “a lot of science” and “a lot of doctors.” Then, he said, “Gov. Abbott and myself and other state leaders will make the decision. No thank you, Dr. Fauci.”
Later Wednesday, Patrick doubled down on his criticism of the infectious disease expert, saying in a statement that it’s “notable that Dr. Fauci did not criticize Andrew Cuomo’s deadly decisions in New York or California’s strategy, whose months long draconian lock down has had no impact on case numbers there.”
In a statement, Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party, condemned Patrick’s remarks.
“Last night, Dan Patrick confirmed what we already knew: he and the rest of Texas’ GOP leadership are ignoring the advice of Dr. Fauci and public health experts. Their abysmal failure of leadership is costing Texans their lives,” he said.