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Tomorrow marks five months since we learned of the first positive cases of COVID-19 in Iowa.

Since then, our lives have been disrupted in ways that we really couldn’t have imagined: schools and businesses closed. A record number of Iowans were suddenly out of work, and our normal daily routines were turned upside down as we prioritize doing things differently to mitigate the spread of the virus.

From the start, we’ve each had a role to play to protect our own health and that of our families, friends, and fellow Iowans. Early on, as cases were on the rise, Iowans dug deep and did their part, and it made a difference. Positive cases trended down, hospital capacity remained stable, businesses began to reopen, and life started to feel a bit more normal.

But normal during a pandemic isn’t the same as normal before. COVID-19 is still a reality, and circumstances still demand we do everything within our control to contain and manage it.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen case counts ebb and flow just as many other states across the nation have so while we know that the majority of them are driven by young adults gathering socially. It’s the unintended consequences of those activities that are cause for concern, including the potential impact of vulnerable Iowans.

Now is not the time to let down our guard. Iowa has a lot to gain by working together to keep our communities healthy, especially right now as we’re preparing to safely return to school. Our individual actions will either keep us moving forward or put the progress that we’ve made at risk.

Preventive health measures are still the best defense against COVID-19. So wash your hands often and disinfect frequently used items. When you’re in public, maintain social distance and wear a face mask if you’re able. Stay home when you’re sick. And please carefully consider whether certain social or recreational activities are worth the risk.

Remember, if you or someone you were in close contact with test positive for COVID-19 and you’re told to quarantine, take it seriously. You have the ability to effectively stop the spread of the virus by isolating yourself from others during the full 14-day incubation period.

These sacrifices seem small when compared to what’s been asked of other generations over the decades. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. COVID-19 has tested each of us, and it will continue to, but we can’t let it deter or divide us. When emotions are high, and opinions are strong, it’s important to take a step back and realize that we’re all working together toward the same goal.

And even though we may not always agree on which path to take to get there, we are united in our desire to get back to the way of life we value as Iowans. We’re all in this together.

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