Changing our mindset to re-open Florida and America

During my career in the Air Force, I was taught and used a decision-making process called the OODA loop — OODA being an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This four-step approach to decision making focuses on rapidly gathering information, putting it in historical and current context, deciding appropriate actions and then executing. It’s a powerful tool for quickly zeroing in on the best answer to complicated questions and then repeating the steps as the situation changes.

OODA can be applied outside the military and can be used in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic response by our leaders. We’ve observed that the threat of the virus is real and precautions are necessary, but also that the shutdown cannot continue. We’ve oriented ourselves by comparing this pandemic to historical lessons learned, while remembering our American principles, and we’ve decided that we need to re-open our economy sooner rather than later. It’s time to act. Yesterday, Governor DeSantis and the Re-Open Florida Task Force announced the first phase of a plan to reopen Florida.

An important part of implementing OODA at this moment is that the “act” part needs to involve ongoing education of what is happening on the healthcare front along with reminding Floridians of the basic principles ensconced at the core of our country.

Americans are still dying from the virus, and will continue to in the future, hopefully at consistently smaller numbers. Healthcare workers are fighting on the frontlines and will continue to. And 30 million Americans are suddenly unemployed — over the course of five weeks. We observe that an indefinite shutdown is not tenable and that we do not and never will live on a planet that is safe from everything.

The mindset that we cannot re-open until it is safe needs to change, as does our fear of this virus without weighing the full costs of the shutdown to temporarily contain it. It is most certainly a killer, but the fatality rate continues to decline as we get better numbers. The further into the virus, the more we realize that the death rate is nothing like we were originally told. But it is extremely contagious.

The original estimates of millions of Americans possibly dying frightened a lot of people. But now that we are looking at a fraction of that number — unknown, but likely less than many other causes of death — many Americans have demanded we start re-opening.

The reality is that this virus is going to remain. We can’t wait until we have a vaccine in 12 to 18 months — if ever. Effective vaccines are difficult for coronaviruses. So, we have to go back to living in a world that has one more thing that can hurt or kill us and find a way to live with that. I believe Floridians are aware of that reality and ready to live life, knowing better now what the risks are.

We do that right now, every day. There are so many things that are dangerous in our daily lives. We drive cars and tens of thousands of people die every year. We could save virtually all of those lives by lowering the speed limit to 5 mph. But of course, that would be a terrible trade-off. Heart disease, cancer, strokes, and accidents kill hundreds of thousands every year and a myriad of lifestyle choices can be killers. Transmittable killers such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, pneumonia, Lyme disease, salmonella and more are among us daily.

President Trump and Gov. DeSantis seem to be following the OODA loop model, in action if not in terminology. The curve is flattened. Our healthcare system has not been overwhelmed. Americans have the information we need to understand the risks and the proper precautions. We need to act now, and return Americans’ rights and jobs while continually communicating to them about the disease.

Florida State Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, represents House District 73 covering parts of Sarasota County and Manatee County.