Do we kill elderly people or do we kill the economy?

That was pretty much what Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was asking when he suggested Monday that he and other older Americans should be willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy.

Patrick set off a firestorm that created a false ethical dilemma and sent many people down an unproductive path, which made people wanting to reopen businesses look selfish and self-serving in a time of crisis. The business owners we know aren’t selfish or self-serving when they fight to keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll.

Many already have sacrificed and volunteered during this crisis, helping their communities the best way they can, donating services, food, time and skills — things they often do when there isn’t a crisis.

What we should be debating as a nation known for sacrifice and ingenuity is: Where we can find the balance that doesn’t destroy livelihoods or lives? How can we keep people working without increasing infection rates and overburdening an ill-prepared medical system?

How can we stop barreling toward a scenario in which millions of people lose their jobs, their health insurance and their homes? How can we reasonably protect public health without sending us hurtling into another Great Depression?

“Any debate contrasting life vs. dollars is misleading,” William Galston, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, who has expertise on social philosophy and U.S. domestic policy, told The Washington Post.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, those greedy corporations. They just want people back in airplanes,’” he said. “Almost half of the country is employed in small businesses. It is economic activity that produces the now-famous respirator masks that health care workers need — to work to preserve their lives, in order to preserve other lives.”

What we need to be asking ourselves is how this nation and world can find the balance.

Let’s be honest. Who among us isn’t wondering how long this can go on, how many friends and relatives can lose their jobs or the businesses and careers they’ve toiled years to build? Asking those questions doesn’t make anyone a callous, capitalistic jerk. And espousing economy-be-damned rhetoric doesn’t make someone morally superior, nor will it save any lives.

The real cure here is a rational, reasonable, cautious plan that considers people and economic reality.

Congressional leaders of both parties early Wednesday agreed in principle on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. But let’s call it what it is, which isn’t a stimulus package but a temporary survival package.

It’s too early to know what it means for some businesses that have had no or little revenue coming in for weeks.

One of the main things lawmakers are touting about the package is a tax credit for some small businesses for 50 percent of wages paid to employees during the coronavirus crisis. For some small businesses, it will be too little, too late.

The emergency legislation was a start. But what we really need is a plan, hope and a timeline for business owners, many of whom say they won’t last if this goes on for weeks or months more. There are many unknowns about COVID-19. But what we do know is that we can’t do this for long or again.

Laura Elder

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248;

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(38) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

I thought we had hope, a timeline, and a plan through April 3rd for shelter in place when an reassessment would occur.

Dan Patrick threw in a wrench in the debate making it about sacrificing himself and other seniors to save the economy.

Definitely a false choice because the goal is to contain the virus and it wouldn’t help the economy or small businesses if people of all ages including seniors end up dying in large numbers.

I hope the economic help comes soon.

Thanks for an excellent editorial pointing out the false dichotomy.

Mark Stevens

There is a lot to savor in the prospect of Dan Patrick actually "sacrificing" himself...for any cause.

But Dan Patrick does not do or say anything without political motive. He is a morbid publicity hound from the get go.

After the Santa Fe shootings I, like many other people, went to UTMB to donate blood. Lt. Gov. Dan was standing there alongside some UTMB Bigwig basking in the glow of the TV camera lights. Free, massive publicity. He couldn't wipe the smile off of his face.

We can expect politicians here and there to seek political advantage from the Covid-9 or any other tragedy. But Dan Patrick takes the cake.

Mark W. Stevens

Gary Scoggin

I am assuming that if affected, Lt. Governor Patrick will stay true to his word and go straight to hospice instead of clogging up a hospital bed.

Ron Woody

Ms. Elder, you do a great job of writing, but the first line of the article is so absurd. From all I have read and followed we know two things.

1. 80% of the people that have coronavirus show no or few signs

2. It affects the elderly and those with weakened immune systems more than others

The idea that we can tell the effects of a virus that 80% show no signs is ridiculous and impossible to determine or estimate. That does not mean it should be ignored, it just makes it impossible to calculate.

Why can we not do both protect the elderly and keep the economy moving. Why were people aged 65 and older not told to shelter in place and have minimal contact with younger family members for a month.

How much sense does it make to remove students from a population that is at minimal risk on college and school campuses and send them home and have them stay home with elderly parents, grandparents, etc.

When this started health officials were proposing hand washing and social distancing which all made sense. Then the media and politicians started making decisions and started violating individual rights for a virus that can not be estimated.

I long ago gave up on anything decent happening in Washington DC and always believed that local government would protect me when the time arose. The idea that Americans are so willing to give up their rights is disturbing.

$1,000 fine for lack of social distancing, people worrying about groups of 12 on a beach and reporting on their fellow citizens, 70 year olds wearing Hazmat Suits to Lowe's to get a faucet that does not need to be changed, she just wanted a new style, citizens being stopped and asked why they are on the road going to their job at a VA hospital.

This all sounds like an America that I do not want to live, regardless the threat.

To answer your question, taking advantage of an idiotic statement by the LT. Governor to ask an idiotic question is not worthy of your talents. It is not an either/or we can do both with some common sense and without giving up our rights.

Don Schlessinger


Chuck DiFalco

The clock is ticking to Great Depression 2.0, which would mean poverty, suffering, and death to millions of people. Great Depression would be caused by people mandating lockdowns, not by the virus. Do we have 60 days of lockdown before the next depression is impossible to prevent? 90 days? Do you want to wait 2 years before all the data is in to figure that out?

"business owners, many of whom say they won’t last if this goes on for weeks or months more. There are many unknowns about COVID-19. But what we do know is that we can’t do this for long or again" More deaths would result from another multi decade economic depression than this virus could ever kill.

Ron Woody

Hear, Hear!

Jim Forsythe

Chuck, after all this is over are you going to change your spending habits? Will you eat out less. If we go back to eating out as before, restaurants will have to hire staff and they will buy things with the money they make. We made it through the slow down in 2009, and we will make it this time.

The answer for most that have jobs and after this is over and getting back on track, they will go back to doing what they did before. We were headed for a slow down before this happened but this caused to happen all at once. What is happening with oil was going to slow down the economy and will for a while as we have too much inventory.

Do you really think that this will last long enough to cause us to go into a Depression? We are probably in a Recession, but it will be short-lived.

Ray Taft

There already exists what we really need: a plan, hope and a timeline. President Trump and his administration have a plan, hope and a timeline. And they’re getting it done whether or not the fake news media wants to acknowledge it.

Of course it may not be the plan leftist Democrats and the fake news media want. The US has a plan, but it’s not the socialist Democrats’ plan to never let a serious crisis go to waste. Democrats want to turn the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity to do things they could not do before. Democrat Majority Whip James Clyburn told caucus members last week that the bill was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

What America doesn’t need and doesn’t want is Pelosi and the socialist Democrats trying to turn the US into another miserable Venezuela. In the House, Speaker Pelosi has stalled the help America urgently needs. Commie Democrats are a bigger threat to America than the coronavirus.

Jim Forsythe

Ray, if all this is as you say why isTrump going along with it? This is being driven by the medical staff he has created. They are giving the guidance and it's up to him to do the rest.

Carlos Ponce

Cuomo is looking out for his constituents which have been heavily hit by the Coronavirus. There is little chance of normalization for that area of the country in the near future. But for other parts of the country there might be.

Paula Flinn

The Trump Plan: Happy Easter! 🐣

The Healthcare System is stressed. There are not enough masks or ventilators. The numbers of sick and dead keep growing. There is no organized plan from the Trump Administration.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has a plan for NY State. He is a trusted leader. He doesn’t pretend or sugarcoat anything. Gov. Cuomo gives the facts of what’s going on in New York. He doesn’t think much of the “Happy Easter Plan.” Neither does Dr. Fauci.

Carlos Ponce

"There is no organized plan from the Trump Administration." Paula, that is am outright LIE. Can you put your hatred on the shelf for the duration?

Did President Trump state things will return to normal by Easter? No he did not. He stated by Easter there could be a normalization by state, area, region conditions permitting but not the entire country.

Paula Flinn

It is not hatred, Carlos, it’s disgust at his incompetence for the first two weeks of this pandemic. When he says he inherited a mess, he inherited a Dept. of CDC set up by President Obama, which he completely disbanded so that he could use the money to build his wall. So, he created a bigger mess for himself, and the country, by doing that.

Then, he called the Virus a hoax. In fact, he called it “a Democratic hoax.”

Now, he is more on board with a plan, signing the DPA to provide ventilators, masks, and hospital gowns (I hope) for our frontline providers, and to perhaps help other countries.

Our President is still disparaging some Democratic Governors because they aren’t praising him. He calls them “ungrateful” and “complainer” because they have asked the Federal Govt. for more help. At one point he said the Federal Government was not a shipping clerk. Now, he is asking for bipartisanship. Anyone see the irony in that?

But now he does have a plan for GM and other companies to make ventilators, but criticized their turn-out rate, since there won’t be 6000 of them until the end of April.

It is important for the President to tell us the truth at this time. It is clear that hyperbole and exaggeration, as well as any lies he tells, will be mentioned by the media.

Cramming people into churches for Easter will be a disaster, anywhere in the country, because the prediction is that the peak of severity, both for confirmed cases and deaths, is said to be 2 or 3 weeks from now.

Carlos Ponce

Trump mentions the word "hoax" just three times in the South Carolina rally on February 28.

Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus, you know that right? Coronavirus, they’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. You say, “How’s President Trump doing?” They go, “Oh, not good, not good.” They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa. They can’t even count. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, “Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.” That didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment HOAX. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried it over and over. They’d been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning. They lost. It’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new HOAX. .......And so far we have lost nobody to coronavirus in the United States. Nobody. And it doesn’t mean we won’t and WE ARE TOTALLY PREPARED. ....While the extreme left has been wasting America’s time with these vile hoaxes, we’ve been killing terrorists, creating jobs, raising wages, enacting fair trade deals, securing our border, and lifting up citizens of every race, religion, color, and creed.

So Paula Flinn, if President Trump says WE ARE TOTALLY PREPARED for the coronavirus, how can anyone claim he's calling it a hoax?????

Carlos Ponce

"Cramming people into churches for Easter..." No where did you get that nonsense from????

Trump wants to normalized parts of the United States that are not affected by the coronavirus by Easter.

Carlos Ponce

Paula Flinn, your post is filled with misinformation probably obtained from a far-Left partisan source. I suggest you check your information before posting.

Carlos Ponce

Snopes got it almost right this time:

"Did President Trump Refer to the Coronavirus as a ‘Hoax’?"

What's True: During a Feb. 28, 2020, campaign rally in South Carolina, President Donald Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's response to the new coronavirus outbreak to their efforts to impeach him, saying "this is their new hoax."

What's False: Despite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax.

Where Snopes messed up was "During the speech he also seemed to downplay the severity of the outbreak, comparing it to the common flu." Read the transcript. "Downplay"??????

"So a number that nobody heard of, that I heard of recently and I was shocked to hear it, 35,000 people on average die each year from the flu. Did anyone know that? 35,000, that’s a lot of people. It could go to 100,000, it could be 27,000. They say usually a minimum of 27, goes up to 100,000 people a year die.....That’s why I tell you when we have the flu with 35,000 people and this one we have to take it very, very seriously. That’s what we’re doing. We are preparing for the worst."

So comparing coronavirus to the common flu with 35,000 DEATHS is DOWNPLAY? Since when is "We are preparing for the worst" downplay?

Paula Flinn

Yes. He called the Coronavirus a Democratic hoax at his rally on February 28, 2020. He would like you to forget it, said both The Guardian and Business Insider, and forget the ad Joe Biden made quoting him saying it.

They were not in the least prepared for the virus, and he excused himself by saying, “Nobody could have predicted this.” He was briefed on it going on in China, in January. I don’t care what he said, he was not at all prepared for this pandemic. If he said that he was totally prepared, he lied.

When he gave his statement about businesses and the economy being closed for a long time, President Trump mused that it would be beautiful for everyone to be able to go to services on Easter Sunday. Churches are very crowded on Easter Sunday, you know that.

Carlos, I don’t make up things. I just listen to his words and form my own opinions about them. I have told you the things he has said. All you have to do is listen. You can put your own spin on it, but he has said many things over and over. If you don’t hear it the first time, he repeats himself.

Now he says that he doesn’t think Gov. Cuomo needs 30,000 ventilators. Gov. Cuomo says people will die without them. The reason he needs so many is that some people are spending weeks on them instead of a few days. President Trump still doesn’t see the Big Picture. That is my opinion, not misinformation.

Carlos Ponce

Paula posts, "Carlos, I don’t make up things." Paula, if you did not make it up, you are repeating a LIE.

I heard the original rally. It's not in there. To say "Yes. He called the Coronavirus a Democratic hoax at his rally on February 28, 2020," is FALSE.

Even Liberal Snopes writes "Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax.

Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax. GET IT?

See the video of the rally on Youtube. Read the transcript online. Read the Snopes article.

Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax. Despite overwhelming proof you are wrong. Why do you still cling to the lie that he did?

Snopes writes, "What's True: During a Feb. 28, 2020, campaign rally in South Carolina, President Donald Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's response to the new coronavirus outbreak to their efforts to impeach him, saying "this is their new hoax," not the Coronavirus pandemic.

Carlos Ponce

Paula writes, "Now he says that he doesn’t think Gov. Cuomo needs 30,000 ventilators." Now, Trump did say that. Why? The Federal government has sent New York State THOUSANDS of ventilators that sit unused in a warehouse. Cuomo admitted yesterday March 27th: "Yes, they're in a stockpile because we don't need them yet. We need them for the apex, the apex isn’t here, so we’re gathering them in a stockpile. We don’t need them today, because we’re not at capacity today, that’s why they’re not deployed because they’re not needed.”

Sitting in a warehouse, unused when they could be used elsewhere saving lives.

Experts say Cuomo is exaggerating future need at "the apex". Could it be he's trying to cover up past mistakes?

New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey reminds us, "Cuomo could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015. It's a lot of money but less than the $750 million he threw away on a boondoggle 'Buffalo Billion' solar panel factory. When it comes to state budget priorities, spending half a percent of the budget on ventilators is a no brainer."

Gary Scoggin

Carlos, just curious, how many ventilators did Gov. Abbott store up using the state rainy day fund? Seems like a no brainer to me.

Carlos Ponce

Gary, rainy day fund is not needed. State run hospitals are budgeted yearly to meet needs for emergencies such as hurricanes. Texas' hospital capacity exceeds national capacity average per capita. Texas State University is loaning area hospitals used to train respiratory therapists ventilators to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Midwestern State University (MSU) in Wichita Falls has loaned ventilators to United Regional in an effort to help with COVID-19 patients. Lone Star College - Kingwood has loaned ventilators to local area hospitals in an effort to help combat the coronavirus. Rice University develops low-cost ventilators to help coronavirus victims.

Locally you read in the GCDN, "UTMB engineers hope hack can address ventilator shortages".

Bailey Jones

Thanks to the GCDN for the graphics ( Especially the graphic on "flattening the curve". It shows how effects of the extreme measures in China and South Korea have halted the exponential growth of new cases. When we see the US curve begin to flatten we'll know that we are on the right track. Since it takes 10-14 days for symptoms to manifest, the effects of what we're doing now won't be apparent for a couple of weeks.

Last year's GDP was about $21.4T, or about $400B a week. The $2T cash infusion into the economy should give us a little time to see if what we're doing is effective. The more everyone follows the CDC guidance, the quicker we will flatten the curve, and things can get back to a new "normal".

Ron Woody

Mr. Jones, as we continue to have our dialogue, I would love to have a cup of coffee to just discuss as I believe our interests and reading are very similar.

"Flattening of the curve" as you keep worrying about is not possible when 80% of people show no symptoms. The peak occurs when testing becomes available and the people who are paranoid or worried immediately run to get tested because they may have the "deadly" coronavirus, as opposed to the "deadly" influenza, "deadly" pneumonia or "deadly" diarrhea.

With 80% of individuals not showing symptoms we can assume that the cases are at least 100% greater than what is being reported. That drives the mortality rate down significantly, but we will never know the total population of contaminated.

Landry's has had to release 40,000 employees, but how will Mr. Fertitta meet his debt obligations and that is just one company that we are all familiar. Many, many companies will have to restructure their debt either through bank approval or through the bankruptcy court.

SBA is letting business owners know they can get SBA loans, why should they have to get loans for something that should never have happened in the first place. Small businesses have very, very small margins. Adding increased debt to a small business will drive them out of business, refinancing is not an option that small businesses have.

As the often repeated saying goes, "If you owe the bank $10 million the bank owns you, if you owe the bank $100 million you own the bank". This is the too big to fail mentality. Landry's and others will be fine, but the small business owner will not be able to absorb the needed debt to continue operations.

Galveston Island generates $1.2 billion in tourism revenue (est). On average that is $3.3 million per day. Due to the mayor and others like him lack of questioning and just using a calculator. After 10 days Galveston has lost $30.3 million in revenue. Where does that come from it does not suddenly appear six months from now it is lost. People who may come to Galveston three or four times a year, may only be able to come once. That is lost revenue that can not be recouped.

Now add in the fact that in eight months these same city leaders, Chamber, GDN, Vision Galveston, School Board, Moody Foundation, etc., etc. are going to come to the same business they chose to shut down and ask for $200 million bond for school which is much needed.

As a resident of the Island that is blessed enough to be minimally affected by these actions even I have to ask, where were these leaders when they followed the crowd instead of making hard decisions.

Public health officials were only promoting washing of hands and social distancing until politics and media became involved.

Hope to meet someday. There are many I enjoy the civil discourse.

Paula Flinn

It may be the biggest fallacy of all that 80% of people with coronavirus do not show symptoms. We don’t know for sure.

Carlos Ponce

That number came from a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control: "80.9% of the confirmed cases were mild. Those patients might experience a fever or dry cough but weren't likely to have difficulty breathing or to develop a severe lung infection. The study also found that infected people could show no symptoms at all — that was the case for 1.2% of the patients."

"Results: A total of 72,314 patient records—44,672 (61.8%) confirmed cases, 16,186 (22.4%) suspected cases, 10,567 (14.6%) clinically diagnosed cases (Hubei Province only), and 889 asymptomatic cases (1.2%)—contributed data for the analysis. Among confirmed cases, most were aged 30–79 years (86.6%),diagnosed in Hubei (74.7%), and considered mild (80.9%). A total of 1,023 deaths occurred among confirmed cases for an overall case fatality rate of 2.3%."

Paula Flinn

“80.9% of the confirmed cases we’re mild. Those patients had a fever or dry cough.” I would say those were symptoms. NO symptoms means no fever, no cough, no sweats, no chills, no headaches, no bad feelings in general.

Carlos Ponce

So what Paula heard was false. I can find no reputable source where they said 80% had no symptoms. I can find quite a few where 80 -81% had mild symptoms.

Jim Forsythe

The important part is that about 80% have mild or no symptoms. The 20% are the ones that are in trouble. Some places in the world have a higher rate of death than the 2% that is the world average. New Orleans has a high rate at this time. They are expecting them to become a major hotspot. As close as they are to us, they could be a seed pod for this area.

How many people in this area went to Mar Gra in New Orleans?

Paula Flinn

Ray Taft said it, Carlos. I was answering Ray Taft.

Paula Flinn

Sorry, Ray & Carlos. It was Ron Woody who said in his comment at least twice, that 80% show NO symptoms! I was just commenting on his post, Carlos.

This is not a “Gotcha’ Game” for me. I did not say that 80% of people with Coronavirus do not show symptoms. Ron Woody did.

Carlos Ponce

Some have mild symptoms comparable to a bad cold.

Jim Forsythe

Chuck, after all this is over are you going to change your spending habits? Will you eat out less. If we go back to eating out as before, restaurants will have to hire staff and they will buy things with the money they make. We made it through the slow down in 2009, and we will make it this time.

The answer for most that have jobs and after this is over and getting back on track, they will go back to doing what they did before. We were headed for a slow down before this happened but this caused to happen all at once. What is happening with oil was going to slow down the economy and will for a while as we have too much inventory.

Do you really think that this will last long enough to cause us to go into a Depression? We are probably in a Recession, but it will be short-lived.

Chuck DiFalco

"Chuck, after all this is over are you going to change your spending habits?" Answer: it won't matter. Even if I (hopefully) and millions more go back to our previous spending patterns, many millions more won't be able to. With a localized disaster like Harvey, enough resources exist in the rest of the country to get most victims back on their feet. That said, there are still many Harvey victims that are still not back on their feet because of a lack of resources, ineffective government and private programs, and/or already unfortunate personal circumstances. If too many people get knocked down to poverty, say tens of millions, the ability of everyone else to help them climb back up the economic ladder isn't there because there isn't everyone else. It's much more difficult to go from poverty anywhere upwards than from, say, lower middle class to middle class. Multiply that by tens of millions all at once, and no matter how much the government spends, half of those people and small businesses won't get back up ever.

"Do you really think that this will last long enough to cause us to go into a Depression?" Answer: well, that's the $64 trillion dollar question, isn't it? If state and local "leaders" enforce lockdowns on at least half the country for more than 3 months, I think Great Depression 2.0 would be inevitable. I don't know what they will do. I hope they hear the clock ticking.

Jim Forsythe

Chuck, 11% of the jobs in this area are in restaurants and bars, it will make a difference if you go to them. Think of all the jobs that they generate.

Also, remember that lending was tight in 2009. Small business is going to get money from the government that does not have to be paid back if they keep employees for 4 months. We do not have the elements that are required for a Depression, like in the '30s at this time.

When a need for a restaurant happens, a person or a group will fill it.

Just a few months ago you could find a job if you wanted one. A lot of places that I went too had signs trying to hire people.

Chuck DiFalco

"Small business is going to get money from the government" if a small business has little to no revenue for 4 months, they can't pay the bills even if it gets money to pay employees. Rent, utilities, insurance, and prior loans for equipment and inventory are expensive. Many millions of small businesses in this boat will never come back if lockdowns continue for 4 months. BTW, I'll be buying locally produced wine from Haak.

Jim Forsythe

Small business loans will be available in the next few weeks. $349 billion from the Small Business Administration to guarantee loans to small businesses, which have been hit hard by virus-related declines or complete shutdowns. Small businesses need to be proactive and apply as soon as possible. We can help by buying from our favorite businesses. Even if it just buying gift cards.

If someone needs a job, grocery stores are hiring. The delivery places for food are hiring.

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