Brigadier General John Douglass, USAF (retired)
I am a sixth generation Floridian. I was born in Miami. My father was born in Miami. My grandfather and grandmother were from Ocala. Their parents and grandparents were from the Lake City area. Through all the generations, we have seen Florida grow from a frontier state to the state where many Americans have chosen to work and retire. People from all over the world come to Florida to enjoy its weather, its beaches and lakes, and its many attractions.
Today, unfortunately, Florida is in trouble. Over 700,000 of its citizens have been stricken with the coronavirus. Over 7,000 Floridians have died. Florida has the third highest number of infections in the United States.
The impact of the virus on the economy of the state has been devastating. Businesses have closed, people are out of work, rents are not being paid, and tourists are not coming. Our airports are vacant. Our cruise ship docks are filled with ships stuck in port. The loss of tax revenue from all of this is in the billions of dollars.
The impact of the virus on our children and on our educational system is still unfolding. Many parents cannot depend on virtual learning for their children for a variety of reasons. In some cases, both parents must work, and some do not have the equipment or the connectivity for virtual learning.
Sadly, the situation is not improving. The daily rate of new infections from the virus in Florida is among the highest in the nation. Instead of pausing to get the virus under control, the state governor is acting as if the virus is going away, just as our doctors and scientists are warning of an autumn and winter resurgence of infections.
Many Floridians, including some members of my own family, are ignoring the scale of the pandemic and the impact it has had and will have on our state. They seem to think that as long as they do not personally get infected all will be well.
This “it won’t happen to me” reaction is understandable. Few soldiers going into combat believe they will be killed. The human reaction is that “it will happen to the others, not to me”. Sadly, this seems to have been President Trump’s belief prior to coming down with COVID.
This natural reaction to terrible events is why we have such a hard time getting our minds around the larger impacts that affect us all.
Those of us who spent our lives in the military know that these larger impacts cannot be ignored. The virus is not “fake news”. It is not going to go away like “magic”.
It’s time to face the facts. Our national policies to control the virus have failed. The strategy to leave control of the virus to the states has failed. Some states have done better than others, but not Florida.
In a few days we all will have a chance to do our part to begin to get our country and our state back on track. We need a new President who really has a plan to stop the virus and rebuild our economy.
John Douglass is a retired Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force and former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He lives in Central Florida.