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During the last few days, there have been some changes – specifically, a lifting of coronavirus pandemic restrictions – that make the Iowa side of the Mississippi River seem almost normal.

You can go to a restaurant, sit down at a table and order lunch or dinner.

Some churches are having in-person services, while others are preparing for a return to them.

Tempted to snip your bangs as the pair of scissors in your white-knuckled hand hovers over them? You now can put the scissors down and visit a reopened salon.

Instead of online shopping, you can go to a local store and walk among the items, carefully choosing what you want to take home with you.

But this not to say that everything is back to normal.

We expect it to take longer to get seated at a restaurant; because of 6-foot social distancing requirements, there are fewer tables set up in an establishment. That could lead to a longer wait.

Getting that long-needed haircut could mean waiting a while to get an appointment or standing in a slow-moving line as a walk-in client.

You can’t go to a bar or a casino for a night out, yet.

And then there’s the mask. Who would have ever thought a little strip of cloth would become such a point of controversy?

Obviously, health officials advise that we each wear one when out in a place where we can’t be assured of social distancing. But while some are fine with wearing a mask, others say it is their right not to wear one.

OK, don’t wear one. But if you choose not to, please stay 6 feet away from others – even those who are wearing one. Because if you listen closely, those who are wearing one aren’t protecting themselves as much as they are protecting you.

That’s how it works. You wear a mask to protect others. Others wear a mask to protect you.

And believe what you want about inflated numbers. Social media is full of YouTube videos and memes preaching about the number of COVID-19 cases being inflated.

But we don’t know that. In fact, we may never know.

That’s because people sent home without being tested early on, those who never sought treatment because their symptoms didn’t push them to the doctor and those who have it and have been asymptomatic will never be properly counted.

So instead of thinking the numbers are being inflated, what could be happening is just the opposite.

Again, we most likely will never know.

But what we do know is that we are living with it among us. And while shutting everything down made sense at the beginning to stop the spread as much as possible to blunt the force on our medical system and to help health officials learn more about the virus, the economy has to come back online.

And Iowa is doing that.

It is a very crucial time in Iowa. While we have slowed the cases and are opening the economy, we could fall back into a second wave if we’re not smart about it.

So let’s be smart. Stay home when you’re sick. Wash your hands.

And – whether you are wearing a mask or not – please stand back, and away, from others when out at the store or other public area.

You may not be afraid, but others are. And a little courtesy could go a long way as we muddle through this together.