The governor signed a new proclamation to allow salons, barbershops, and massage and tattoo establishments to partially reopen throughout the whole state starting on Friday, May 15. Restaurants, fitness centers, libraries, campgrounds, and race tracks can also open in those counties that had previously been closed. Bars, movie theaters, museums, pools and casinos will remain closed. Mass gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited. Like previous proclamations, all of these establishments must take public health precautions and are reopened only at a lower capacity to accommodate social distancing practices.
The Iowa Legislature also is scheduled to resume session on June 3. Similar to other openings across the state, this session will be done with additional precautions to keep legislators, staff, and the public safe. Social distancing in the building is recommended and face masks will be available to those who want one. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up, and while the building will be opened back up to the public, tour groups will be prohibited. Like many across the state, we are eager to get back to work and are doing whatever we can to ensure the safety of everyone in the building while finishing the work we were elected to do.
After almost two months of both complete and partial shutdowns across the state, it is time to manage the impact of these closures as the battle against the virus continues. Iowa has a large and diverse economy driven not only by our livestock, agricultural, and manufacturing industries, but also small businesses, like local restaurants, barber shops, or retail stores. While the closures were necessary at the beginning, the point of them was not to overwhelm the health care system. They cannot be a long-term solution to the virus. If the state were to continue prohibiting these places from opening, many more businesses may be forced to close forever.
Unemployment across the country has skyrocketed, with hundreds of thousands in Iowa filing for unemployment in the last several weeks. Extending closures would drive more Iowans into poverty, making it difficult to afford food, a place to live, and pay bills that continue to show up, whether the state is closed or not. Besides those consequences, the impact to mental health and the emotional hardships people experience when facing all these difficulties cannot be ignored.
There is a safe and responsible way to reopen the economy and adapt to the changes COVID-19 is forcing upon us. It is up to each one of us to be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones, without the government dictating every detail in life. We know this virus is very contagious, and certain populations are more vulnerable to it than others. We also know if each of us takes it upon ourselves to follow the guidelines and do what we can to prevent the spread, we can safely and responsibly reopen the Iowa economy.