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Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak first made its way to Iowa, our families, small businesses, and communities have been impacted in ways no one could have previously imagined. In this era of social distancing and uncertainty, many have lost their jobs and businesses have had to shut their doors, some permanently.

As the public health situation begins to improve and the time is right, we must begin the process of reopening Iowa’s economy and get people back to their daily lives and communities. We are working towards this goal as quickly as we can in the safest way possible.

Governor Reynolds has begun the process of reopening on county-by-county basis. This strategy will help us manage “hot spots” in the state while also getting folks back to their normal lives in areas that have not been impacted as badly by the pandemic.

On Monday Governor Reynolds reduced restrictions on some business in the 77 counties that have shown improvement and a decline in the amount of COVID-19 cases. The businesses that are now able to reopen, but must continue to follow CDC guidelines, are restaurants, fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, gyms, enclosed malls, racetracks, libraries, and some other retail establishments.

The governor’s proclamation stated that religious and spiritual gatherings are permitted, but they must continue to also follow the CDC guidelines. This change applies to all 99 counties, even the 22 that still remain closed.The 22 counties that remain under certain restrictions are: Allamakee, Benton, Bremer, Black Hawk, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Lousia, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury. If you are in one of these 22 counties the previous restrictions still apply to businesses and gatherings.

While the vast majority of Iowans have largely remained healthy during this unprecedented time, we must continue to be smart and safe about reopening the economy. We want to get people back to their families, social lives, churches, schools, and jobs as soon as possible and in a reasonable and responsible manner.

Some models have predicted that Iowa will reach its “peak” in late-April or early-May. If we reopen too early, we risk the possibility of creating a new wave of illnesses and deaths. If we delay, some families could be financially devastated and shuttered businesses may never come back. It’s all about finding the right balance and planning accordingly. Iowans can do both.  We can fight COVID-19 by adding health precautions to protect ourselves and each other but also get people back to work and have Iowa thriving again.

Last week, President Trump released guidelines for reopening the economy, but he is leaving it up to individual states to determine their best course of action. This makes sense, especially when you look at how differently COVID-19 is impacting regions like the Midwest and Northeast.

Here in Iowa, people are eager to reopen the economy and return to normal life. Iowa is in a much better position than other states like New York and New Jersey. In many of the more populated states, people live in incredibly close quarters and have a significantly higher risk of spreading COVID-19 to each other. Iowa doesn’t have this problem in most areas of the state.

Iowans are resilient and genuinely want to look out for their friends and neighbors. We have seen an outpouring of support for our workforce on the front lines as individuals and businesses have stepped up in this time of need to help wherever they can. We have seen people supporting their local restaurants and small businesses in droves to make sure they are still around after COVID. We have seen communities come together in ingenious ways to keep spirits up in the face of this invisible enemy.

There is no doubt that Iowa’s best days lie ahead. Be safe. Be well. Together we will get through this!

Author: Matt Windschitl