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These are featured stories of how the Upper Delta and Mid-South is combating the Coronavirus as well as resources to help those impacted by the pandemic.

Small Maskless Gatherings Considered Safe For Fully Vaccinated Arkansans

Michael Hibblen
Gov. Asa Hutchinson receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 18.

Homes and workplaces are expected to see a positive impact as a result of new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the guidelines released Monday, fully vaccinated people can now safely gather indoors in small groups without masks or physical distancing.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the medical director of immunizations for the Arkansas Department of Health, says this will likely improve the mental health of those who have been avoiding contact with family and friends for the past year.

"As we all know, this COVID-19 pandemic has been really hard on our mental health. People feel alone, depressed, isolated. This is a way for us to get together and begin to take care of one another in terms of meeting our emotional, or social, or spiritual needs," Dillaha said.

Another important aspect of the new guidelines, according to Dillaha, is a change in quarantine recommendations. Previously, those who were exposed to someone known to be infected with COVID-19 were advised to quarantine for 10-to-14 days. The CDC now says fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine or be tested after exposure unless they show symptoms of COVID-19. This could result in fewer workplace disruptions caused by quarantining.

The new guidelines still recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to avoid medium or large gatherings, like concerts, sporting events, or weddings. The CDC also recommends that everyone wear masks and physically distance while in public.

Dillaha urged all Arkansans to follow the CDC’s safety precautions because variants of COVID-19, which are more easily transmissible, and potentially more deadly, have been identified in the state.

"This is a very key time for us," Dillaha said. "If we let off on masks and social distancing and avoiding crowds too soon, we could see a resurgence of COVID-19."