In the past few days, cases of coronavirus have started to arise here in Iowa, just like we’ve seen in many other states across the country. At this point, there are over 1,000 cases in the United States, and that number is almost certain to grow.

In Congress, we are working to do our best to limit the spread of the virus, including passing legislation—now law—to better support our local, state, and federal governments as they grapple with this situation. At the federal level, Congress will continue to discuss what next steps might be needed.

Now, coronavirus is certainly not a cause for panic, but it is a serious illness and one that we should work aggressively to limit its spread. All Iowans should listen to the experts and take steps to do their part.

While the government can empower health professionals and government leaders on testing, tracking and containment, some of the most important and effective ways to stop the spread continues to be the simple things—like frequent handwashing (which we should always be doing), refraining from touching one’s face (difficult, I know), covering our coughs and sneezes, and staying home when feeling sick. These are the kinds of basic measure every individual Iowan and American can take right now. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out a series of actions folks can do right away.

And this isn’t limited to just those who are most vulnerable—far from it. While some of the younger and healthier folks in Iowa might feel like they don’t need to take these recommendations seriously, they absolutely should. While they may be at lower risk of developing serious symptoms, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the same precautions as everyone else. Everyone—no matter your age or health—can carry the virus and inadvertently help spread it.

This is a critical time for us all to be keeping in mind our more vulnerable family, friends, and neighbors and to take steps to protect our loved ones. For the senior citizens in our state, and those with underlying health conditions, coronavirus is a very different ballgame. There are members of my own family with conditions that put them at higher risk for severe consequences if they were to be infected by the virus. One of the conditions associated with increased risk for serious complications is high blood pressure. And, according to the United Health Foundation, the number of adults in Iowa aged 65 or older with high blood pressure is 59%.

Our seniors, and individuals with ongoing health risks or conditions, are vital members of our communities. They are veterans, teachers, and doctors; many are still working, most are still volunteering, and all are people we love and care about, many with children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Taking calm, commonsense steps to limit the spread is the least we can do to help ensure that our loved ones live their lives fully and that we address this virus as best we can.

We will all play an important role in keeping Iowa healthy and in preventing this virus from spreading. Let’s all take this seriously and each do our part to look out for one another.

Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.

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