DeSan­tis’ si­lence on masks be­trays mil­i­tary les­son: Pro­tect your­self

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion - Philip Levine, a busi­ness­man who served as the two-term Demo­crat mayor of Mi­ami Beach, ran for gov­er­nor of Florida in 2018. By Philip Levine

There is a say­ing among Navy SEALs that “the only easy day was yes­ter­day.” Trans­la­tion: the chal­lenges of yes­ter­day are be­hind you, while the ones yet to test your met­tle are upon you.

This is the re­al­ity Florida Gov. Ron DeSan­tis faces each day he wakes, and one he’ll face again when the sun rises to­mor­row.

Yet un­like the threat of hur­ri­canes that visit Florida with un­nerv­ing fre­quency, a global pan­demic has given this Florid­ian an op­por­tu­nity to beat an ex­is­ten­tial threat with the force of fore­sight and for­ti­tude … to prove the kind of lead­er­ship you must earn in­stead of pro­claim.

The gov­er­nor’s job is tough, and of­ten thank­less. The road ahead is blurry; there is no clear map. This means the right path lies more in lead­er­ship and hope than mak­ing all the right turns. No one truly knows what is “right.”

DeSan­tis served in the U.S. Navy Re­serve, then as the le­gal ad­vi­sor to the SEAL Com­man­der Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Force in Iraq. Al­though I ran against him for gov­er­nor in 2018, I sin­cerely thank him for his mil­i­tary ser­vice and his com­mit­ment to pub­lic ser­vice as well.

Yet it’s time he re­mem­bered a rule he once lived by, which could en­sure more Florid­i­ans sur­vive in the months ahead. As a le­gal ad­vi­sor for the SEALs, I am con­fi­dent DeSan­tis would al­ways per­son­ally wear a com­bat hel­met out­side a se­cured U.S. base there, as would the troops that served be­side him.

It was for their safety and well­be­ing.

While we are now at war with COVID-19, a virus that is nei­ther Repub­li­can nor Demo­crat, where our “civil­ian hel­mets” are made of cloth, not Kevlar, “masks” which cover our mouths and not our heads. From the CDC to ev­ery ma­jor health of­fi­cial worth their salt, all agree they’re our best de­fense to­day against a dis­ease in­fect­ing more and killing more.

The sol­diers fight­ing along­side the gov­er­nor this time are not SEALs, but fel­low Florid­i­ans who want to beat this en­emy so they can safely re­turn to their nor­mal lives and fam­i­lies.

By ev­ery mea­sure, the bat­tle is rag­ing within Florida, where cit­i­zens (young and old) are be­ing in­fected in record num­bers. I im­plore Gov. DeSan­tis to man­date the wear­ing of our com­bat hel­mets (i.e., masks) dur­ing this war to re­duce the number of in­juries and ca­su­al­ties.

The CDC states very clearly that face cov­er­ings help pre­vent peo­ple who have COVID-19 from spread­ing the dis­ease, es­pe­cially in pub­lic set­tings. While the gov­er­nor and I dis­agree on many po­lit­i­cal is­sues, I know we both share a de­sire to keep Florid­i­ans as safe as pos­si­ble.

Ev­ery gov­er­nor in Amer­ica have had tough choices to make. That’s both the re­spon­si­bil­ity and bur­den of lead­er­ship. Yet any orig­i­nal emer­gency plan, like not man­dat­ing that masks be worn in pub­lic, must flex with chang­ing cir­cum­stance or sur­ren­der to fail­ure.

As they say in the Navy SEALs: “No plan sur­vives first con­tact with the en­emy.”

Gov­er­nor, it’s time to put on our masks and beat this virus to­gether!

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