CDC releases guidance on Easter gatherings

Updated: Apr. 2, 2021 at 9:10 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Center for Disease Control has announced that people who are fully vaccinated can travel in the United States without getting tested for COVID-19 or having to quarantine.

People are feeling more free to travel across the country to see friends and family that in some cases they haven’t seen in over a year.

But health experts say the key to gathering indoors without a mask, is having everyone in your group get the COVID-19 vaccine.

This Easter is the first holiday in the past year that health experts are starting to sing a different tune.

“This holiday is really different from the previous ones and the reason is because so many people have received the vaccination,” said Dr. Manoj Jain, Infectious Disease Expert.

According to CDC guidance, people can gather indoors, without a mask if everyone in the group is fully vaccinated from COVID-19, which means two full weeks after getting the final vaccine dose.

But if more than one member of your group is unvaccinated, masks and social distancing are still key according to local health experts.

“I think it’s critically important to follow the rules because we are seeing an increase in the number of cases all across the country,” said Jain.

“Because the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, we still need to protect those folks who are unprotected from us because we have certainly seen the vaccine not completely prevent infection,” Dr. Steven Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Expert for Baptist Memorial Healthcare said.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Epidemiologist for the Arkansas State Department of Health says she hopes the ability to more safely gather among groups who are fully vaccinated without masks or social distancing gives extra incentive for people to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

“It is a new day,” said Dillaha. These vaccines are very safe and effective and it’s really going to make a difference in our quality of life, our ability to get together and see and be with the people that we love.”

And good news for the kids interested in chocolate and candy this Easter, health experts say that Easter egg hunts done outdoors are very safe.

Church service is a major event for many during Easter Weekend.

While vaccines are allowing families and friends to gather, guidelines and protocols are still very important and in place for church services according to local health experts.

Experts say there is still community spread of COVID-19 happening right now and with the threat of variants that are more adverse to vaccines, it is critical for church services to remain cautious during Easter Weekend.

Dillaha says it’s critical for any church gathering in person or indoors, to strictly follow health guidelines including wearing masks and staying socially distant.

“We have found over time the congregations that follow our guidelines do not have outbreaks,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Local health experts say paying attention to the details in the safety guidelines will help prevent outbreaks amongst those who are unvaccinated.

“If people do sing in their congregation, then I strongly encourage them to wear a face mask,” said Dillaha.

“Not sharing things, don’t pass the offering plate to people, those kind of situations. Distance if you’re going to be in an in church setting to be sure,” said Threlkeld.

Health experts say virtual services or Easter services held outdoors is the safest way to keep everyone safe.

“Outdoor gatherings really reduce the chances of transmission and that’s what concerns us the most is when the virus can easily transmit to a lot of people,” said Jain.

The CDC has outlined guidelines for church services for Easter Weekend.

To look over those guidelines, click HERE.

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