COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)
Many Missourians are planning to participate in Easter Sunday church services and other Easter activities as COVID-19 case rates decline and more of the population is getting vaccinated.
Pastor Chris Baker with the First Baptist Church of Centralia, says Easter services will look somewhat normal this year. Last year the church had to do drive-in and virtual services for the holiday. The church has been hosting services in its gym and fellowship hall in order to allow for social distancing.
"We're doing those things in our gym and fellowship hall still because we don't have room to social distance in our sanctuary, but we've been back inside since the middle of the summer and so this has kind of become our norm and so we're fairly used to it at this point, so it will really look like a typical Sunday for us in a lot of ways,", said Baker.
The Diocese of Jefferson City is also planning to host Easter Sunday services. Helen Osman, the Director of Diocesan Communication says social distancing and masks will be enforced during services, but it's hoping people will feel comfortable enough to attend.
"Some people who have already been vaccinated or feeling more comfortable we're hoping that they'll be joining us. We will continue with our social distancing and wearing a mask,", said Osman.
The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department has recently lifted some restrictions on businesses and public gatherings as apart of the new health order extension that went into effect on March 14.
As restrictions are being lifted, more of the population is getting vaccinated and COVID-19 case rates are remaining low; local churches are planning to host an Easter Sunday service this year. Many churches either canceled or held virtual services for Easter last year due to the spike of COVID-19 cases and stay-at-home orders.
Sara Humm with Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, says enforcing social distancing and masks during Easter celebrations is the best way to stay safe.
“So the main thing is that social distancing is still in place, so even though things like occupancy and gathering sizes and things like that have changed and have expanded, social distancing is still part of the order and so is wearing masks, so for any sort of gathering whether that’s at any sort of a religious institution or if they’re having a gathering outside of their home or in their home, the social distancing and masking requirements are still in place,”, said Humm.
The Cole County Health Department says it advises people to wear masks and social distance during Easter celebrations. It says if families are planning to gather for celebrations it's encouraged to find safe ways to connect following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
"Social distance from others outside of your household, wear a mask where distancing cannot be maintained, wash your hands and/or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and stay home if you are feeling sick. The guidance from CDC remains the same and has been consistent for much of this pandemic. Focusing on all of these preventative measures will lead to a safer Easter Weekend," says Chezney Schulte, the Communicable Disease Coordinator for the Cole County Health Department.
Though many Missourians have received at least their first shot of the vaccine, health officials advise continuing COVID-19 safety practices until more of the population receives their vaccine.
According to the state's vaccine dashboard, Boone County has administered 85,342 vaccines; of that 32,357 have received full vaccination. 29.7% of Boone County's population has started the vaccination process. The state has administered 2,381,779 vaccine doses; of that 902,026 Missourians have been fully vaccinated.
"About 30 percent of Boone County has been vaccinated so that still leaves about 60 percent that have not been vaccinated, so we still know that a majority of folks are not vaccinated,”, said Humm.
Humm says according to the CDC, if someone is considered fully vaccinated and wants to be around other people who are not vaccinated, they must continue to wear masks and social distance. Fully vaccinated individuals can interact with other fully vaccinated people without masks or social distancing.