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Adjusting to New Norms
Transitioning to Normalcy
Since March, our state has adjusted to a new norm of social distancing, remote work, telemedicine and mask wearing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Now, three months later, Arkansans are once again tasked with shifting into another new norm – opening Arkansas back up.
During phase 1 of the state’s reopening, restaurants were designated to keep tables and patrons 10 feet apart. Moving into phase 2, distance between tables has been reduced to 6 feet separation and capacity to increase to two-thirds. While this is a great update for restaurateurs, what does that mean for individuals with a developmental disability who are at a higher risk of being affected by COVID-19?
Adventuring out to restaurants means wearing a mask or protective face covering when walking inside the restaurant and waiting for your drinks. Once a patron receives their drink, they can remove their mask if they wish. All servers and employees are required by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to continually wear a protective face covering to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially since servers have to interact within a few feet of customers to communicate effectively and provide them with drinks and food. For customers, it is not required of them to wear a face covering once the server comes around to the table, but moving around the restaurant to use the bathroom or leave requires wearing a mask.
Also, as part of phase 2, ADH is encouraging all statewide companies to implement screening of all employees before they enter the workplace. Businesses where individuals may line up for services such as grocery and retail stores should place markers designating 6-feet distances so customers can stand at a safe distance. Signage on all entryways must discourage individuals who have shown any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 not to enter. The full list of new guidelines can be found here: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/images/uploads/pdf/directive_business_limitations_phase_II.pdf.
Telemedicine opportunities will likely continue to be offered for patients, especially for needs that do not require blood work or lab tests. Additionally, individuals who believe they may be showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been in direct contact with an individual who has COVID-19 can get tested for free at several locations throughout the state. In rural areas where access to health care may be slim to none, Community Health Centers of Arkansas is providing free drive-thru health screenings. Hospital systems and their affiliate locations like the University of Arkansas Medical System (UAMS) may offer free to low cost screenings as well.
For additional resources and information on ways to keep your family safe, identify symptoms or even learn how to make your own cloth mask, visit healthy.arkansas.gov.
On Monday, June 15, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that the state had been impacted by nearly 13,000 positive COVID-19 cases and 182 deaths. The state has been in response mode of the virus for nearly 15 weeks implementing new guidelines to reduce the virus’s spread. To further illustrate its impact on our state’s health, we looked into the numbers of the state’s flu season. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, from September 29, 2019, to April 11, 2020, (a 15-week period), Arkansas had 36,180 positive flu cases with 118 flu-related deaths.
About the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities
The Council is a federally funded state agency that promotes integration, inclusion and independence for Arkansans with developmental disabilities. Council members are self-advocates, relatives and/or caregivers of individuals with DD, state agency directors, and representatives from nonprofit and private organizations that serve Arkansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Council works to encourage self-advocacy; to remove barriers to information, services and support; to advocate for policy changes; to develop and support coalitions; and to educate community leaders. For more information about the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and its mission, browse more pages on this website GCDD.arkansas.gov, or call 501-682-2897. Follow the Council on Facebook and Twitter @gcddar. You can also find Arkansas GCDD on YouTube.
Assiah Lewellen, Program and Outreach Manager
Office of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities
Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration