Whom do you trust? Dan Patrick or the scientists?

Science versus politics is a familiar war in Texas and the rest of the country. Some obvious examples: Evolution versus the State Board of Education, climate change versus much of the political establishment and the anti-vaxxers who have helped measles make a comeback in the classroom.

More recently, as the coronavirus pandemic has raged, we have had the infectious disease expert versus the denier-in-chief. Politely, but persistently, Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly corrected President Trump’s optimistic and misleading statements about the health emergency, using scientific facts and projections to counter the president’s desperate attempt to rescue a reelection campaign while COVID-19 cases are beginning to soar and the economy is tanking.

And now we have Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Trump’s chief point man in Texas, chiming in on the side of absurdity, urging a resumption of life-as-normal when life for most people right now is anything but normal. Let’s defy the pandemic and the warnings of scientists and put everybody back to work and rescue the economy, he says.

What he really means is let’s reopen schools, restaurants, bars and other businesses, boost the stock market and help Donald Trump get reelected. Like the president, Patrick is dangerously putting politics over science and, most importantly, over countless lives.

“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. Don’t do that. Don’t ruin this great American dream,” he said on Fox News the other night, echoing similar comments by Trump.

We all wish Patrick were correct, but most of us know better. We all would like people to be able to go back to work today. But we also know that would lead to an even greater health and economic disaster, assuming the scientists and health experts are correct. And I will trust the scientists and health experts any day over opportunist political ideologues like Patrick and Trump.

“We’ll take care of ourselves,” Patrick said, knowing full well that, as lieutenant governor, he will have no difficulty getting the best medical treatment available should he contract the virus. Millions of his constituents are not so fortunate. Five million Texans don’t even have health insurance, in part because of the inadequate health care Patrick hasn’t lifted a finger to improve.

He and Trump are playing a very dangerous political game with Americans’ health.

—Clay Robison

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