As Iowa takes its first steps toward trying to revive its economy, please be careful to protect yourself and those around you.

Here at your hometown newspaper we want to see Iowa’s economy thrive again as soon as possible, but we fear Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision allowing churches and some businesses to start reopening Friday is premature and dangerous.

While we appreciate that she is facing extremely difficult economic and political choices, our bias favors the medical and scientific establishment and the expertise that only a deep understanding of infectious diseases and epidemiology can provide.

Multiple national and state medical experts have made it clear they believe the time to restart commerce has not yet arrived.

Just this afternoon, the Des Moines Register gained access to a report produced by University of Iowa public health experts warning that loosening restrictions could have a negative impact.

“Prevention measures should remain in place,” the report said. “Without such measures being continued, a second wave of infections is likely.”

The coronavirus has already claimed more than 50,000 American lives – more than 16 times the number who perished in the 911 attack – and the number is growing every day. The virus is continuing to spread as our nation and state remain underequipped in both medical supplies and testing.

The medical establishment’s basic argument against restarting the economy too soon is not hard to understand. The experts point out that an infected person can carry the virus and remain contagious for up to 14 days, sometimes without any symptoms. They also point out that the number of new cases in Iowa continues to grow, which does not signal that the virus is yet under control. In fact, it suggests the exact opposite.

While we appreciate our governor’s awareness of the economic hardship social distancing is creating, her decision to reopen is a huge gamble, and if it does not go well, the people of Iowa are the ones who will pay the price.

That price could include more sick, more dead and an even longer period of economic malaise caused by false economic starts.

Healthcare workers have taken more than their share of risk already, both nationally and here in Iowa, along with other essential workers who are keeping food and other supplies flowing. The best way to protect them and honor their efforts is to avoid situations that have the potential to exacerbate the virus’ spread.

Reynolds has said multiple times during this crisis that Iowans don’t need to be told what to do, that they will do the right thing on their own. Hopefully the people of Iowa will prove her right.

We applaud the quick and difficult decision some churches and businesses have already announced to remain closed for the time being – a cautious, responsible decision that puts public health above their own short-term economic interests.

Your hometown newspaper appreciates their example and will follow their lead. We will continue to publish both online and in print as our employees (those who have not been laid off) work mostly from home.

The urge to “get back to normal” is strong, but we must all think about each other, realize this is not over and redouble our will to do what is best for all.

So please, be careful out there. Your friends’ lives may very well depend on it.