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May 05, 2020

Former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie: 'There are going to be deaths no matter what'

In push for reopening, ex-presidential candidate compares COVID-19 death toll to World War II sacrifice

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued Monday that the United States must begin reopening the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, acknowledging many lives would be lost. 

Christie, a presidential candidate in 2016, appeared on "The Daily DC" podcast with CNN's Dana Bash to talk about the COVID-19 crisis, which has claimed more than 69,000 confirmed deaths in the United States.

"The American people have gone through significant death before," Christie said. "We have gone through it in World War I, we have gone through it in World War II and we survived it. We sacrificed those lives."

Christie called the coronavirus death toll inevitable, claiming the medical community's guidance will destroy the U.S. economy.

"If we leave this purely up to the physicians and the epidemiologists, we'll be locked in our houses for another year," Christie said. "Because they don't want us to be doing anything other than staying in our homes until there's a vaccine. I don't think that's reasonable."

Christie's remarks came after the University of Washington's IHME model raised expected deaths to about 135,000 through mid-August. The model's initial projections already have been surpassed. 

Another forecast indicates the nation's daily death toll will hit as many as 3,000 deaths by June 1. That projection was included in a government presentation leaked to The New York Times and The Washington Post. 

Mitigation efforts have helped lower the toll to approximately 1,500 per day. The peak in mid-April was closer to 3,000, suggesting that the restrictions have been working to prevent deaths in a relatively quick timeframe. 

The revised projections are largely driven by states beginning to reopen despite infection rates that are too high to contain a resurgence. 

"I think what we've done is slowed down the curve now, and I think we have to start to — not blow the whole thing open, not start having rock concerts and football games with full stadiums, but we have to start letting people get back to work," Christie said.

The choice between saving lives and money is a "false choice," Christie added.

"Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can ― but the question is, towards what end, ultimately?" Christie said. "Are there ways that we can thread the middle here to allow that there are going to be deaths, and there are going to be deaths no matter what?"

Christie lamented the fact that large retailers are permitted to remain open because they sell food, but small businesses must remain closed. He criticized some states for failing to act on behalf of residents in economic peril.

"These are the decisions that governors are facing now and they can't be timid," Christie said. "We are being faced right now, in some of the states, with paralyzing timidity rather than Churchillian boldness."

Christie joined a growing contingent of Republicans who are urging a more expedited reopening, even if it means that the progress in reducing infections could be reversed within weeks.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves revised the state's Safer at Home order to allow restaurants to resume in-house dining under certain conditions, including pre-shift screening and cloth masks for employees, 50% seating capacity and prohibiting bars that don't serve food.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told FOX News' Tucker Carlson that while nobody wants people to die, risks must be taken to save the economy.

"We’re crushing the average worker," Patrick said late last month. "We’re crushing small businesses. We’re crushing the markets. We’re crushing this country. There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country."

In response to the podcast, Christie was slammed by critics for comparing the pandemic to past wars and underestimating the cost of mass preventable death.