Patrick criticized for blaming Black Texans for spread of COVID-19

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is facing backlash for comments he made on Fox News Thursday evening.

"COVID is spreading. Particularly most of the numbers are with the unvaccinated and the Democrats like to blame Republicans on that. Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90 percent of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and their major counties." Patrick told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham adding, "It's up to the Democrats, just as it’s up to the Republicans, to try to get as many people vaccinated, but we respect the fact that if people don’t want the vaccination, we’re not gonna force it on them. That’s their individual right. But in terms of criticizing the Republicans for this, we’re encouraging people to take it, but they’re doing nothing for the African American community that has a significant high number of unvaccinated people, so they need to address that."

Data in Patrick’s homestate shows 7.6 percent of eligible Black Texans are fully vaccinated. Black Texans make up 12 percent of the state's population. They are not the biggest or least vaccinated racial or ethnic group in Texas.

Thursday, former Texas GOP Chair Allen West tweeted "I find the comments of Lt. Gov. @DanPatrick blaming unvaccinated Black people for Covid spread in Texas disgusting, unconscionable, utterly disturbing and highly insulting. I am an unvaccinated Black man in texas."

State Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) wrote "using minorities as a scapegoat is nothing new for Republicans. This is uninformed racist rhetoric and it will not be tolerated."  

NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted  "Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is delusional. Black Texans are not the driving force behind the surge of Covid cases in Texas. Falsely casting blame on the Black community is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and we expect better from an elected official."

Friday Adrienne Sturrup of Austin Public Health responded to Patrick's comments calling them "unfortunate" and a "slight misinterpretation" of data.

"It may also unintentionally create a divisive environment...that's not what we need to get out of this. We need a collective call to action, a collective response to be able to get out of this pandemic." she said, adding. "What I will say is that the data shows that Blacks are more severely impacted by covid, and that is an indicator of we, the fact that we have more work to do to address the structural and systemic inequities in our country that allow health disparities to persist."

On Friday, Patrick issued this statement, stating "federal and state data clearly indicate that Black vaccination rates are significantly lower than white or Hispanic rates."

Working to combat health disparities, Austin Public Health rolled out a vaccine incentive pilot program this week. While supplies last, $50 HEB gift cards will be given to those receiving first and second doses.

"We have seen that monetary incentives do help and particularly focusing on those populations that have some risk of losing wages for taking off work to get a vaccine or getting their family vaccinated." said Cassandra DeLeon, of Austin Public Health.

There are 2,000 gift cards set aside for the pilot. The Anna Lark Center is excluded, as are those receiving their third doses.

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