WASHINGTON — As of today, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of 3,361 Pennsylvanians, a figure that most experts believe is an undercount. In the face of this unprecedented loss of life, Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai wrote a letter to colleagues today unsubtly emphasizing that the victims were largely elderly and many had preexisting conditions.
The implication could not be clearer: for the Pennsylvania GOP, the lives impacted by this crisis hardly justifies the public health restrictions imposed by Governor Tom Wolf to combat it.
“Republicans in Pennsylvania and in states across the country are bowing to unrepresentative, right-wing special interests to force their constituents back on the job in unsafe conditions,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “Speaker Turzai should be ashamed of framing the lives we’ve lost as expendable. He and his partisan allies should be prepared to explain that to the Pennsylvania families who have lost a loved one.”
Even though most Americans remain wary of relaxing restrictions — and voters in Pennsylvania overwhelmingly approve of Governor Wolf’s handling of the crisis — Republicans in the state have fought to overturn stay-at-home orders, defying the advice of public health experts.
Speaker Turzai’s letter is a reflection of the increasingly prevalent view among conservatives that the economy should come before saving lives. President Trump earlier this week admitted that “there’ll be more deaths… but we have to get our country open.” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick suggested the elderly should be willing to die for the sake of the economy.
“We all want things to get back to normal,” added Post, “but we know that choosing between saving lives and the economy is a false choice. We can’t have an economic recovery until we get the virus under control. Democrats in Pennsylvania and across the country are listening to medical experts so that we can save lives and fully combat this crisis.”