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Chris Christie: America must return to work and accept that 'people are going to die' from COVID-19 — or face years of devastating economic fallout

The Republican and former New Jersey governor said if economy doesn't reopen it will 'destroy the American way of life'

Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued that America must go back to work and at the same time accept that "people are going to die" from COVID-19 "no matter what" measures officials take to flatten the pandemic's curve.

Christie, a Republican, offered his take on what should be done going forward during an interview Monday on CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash's "Daily DC" podcast.

What are the details?

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

When Bash asked Christie if Americans will be able to accept new projections of about 3,000 daily deaths from COVID-19 by June 1, the former governor said resolutely, "They're gonna have to."

'We have to stand up for the American way of life'

Christie noted that if he were sitting in the Oval Office, he would tell the country that "the American people have gone through significant death before. We've gone through it in World War I, we've gone through it in World War II. We have gone through it, and we've survived it. We sacrificed those lives. We sent our young men during World War II over to Europe, out to the Pacific ... knowing that many of them would not come home alive. And we decided to make that sacrifice because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now, we have to stand up for the American way of life."

To illustrate the economic devastation already gripping many U.S. households, Christie recounted a recent story about three car lines, each a mile long, in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, all headed toward a food bank — and a husband and wife saying they both were laid off from their casino jobs and are afraid they won't be able to pay their mortgage.

"The mental health, addiction, domestic violence, and suicide costs of this — of not letting people go back to work — are gonna be ... very, very difficult for the American people to take," Christie said.

'What are those lives gonna be worth if they can't go to work?'

He also decried the "false choice" between "money and lives" argued by many in favor of continuing the economic shutdown.

"What are those lives gonna be worth if they can't go to work, if they can't support their families if they're gonna become homeless, if they have to go to food banks every week to be able to feed their families? That's not sustainable, either," he said.

Christie added that "we've got to let some of these folks get back to work, because if we don't, we're gonna destroy the American way of life in these families — and it will be years and years before we can recover."

He added that small businesses should be allowed to reopen, albeit with as many safety precautions as possible — and that "corner stores" are just as capable of taking those precautions as supermarkets, which have remained open since the shutdown began.

'People are going to die'

Christie also called for governors to exercise boldness and honesty about the inevitable.

"In the end you're going to have to tell them, 'people are going to die.' And it's going to be awfully sad," he said.

"If we leave this purely up to the physicians and epidemiologists ... we'll be locked in our houses for another year," he also said, adding that medical professionals "don't want us doing anything until there's a vaccine. I don't think that's reasonable.

"We don't let the epidemiologists run the state," Christie also told Bash. "If we did, they should be governor."

One last thing…
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