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Arkansas churches returning to COVID policies as cases rise

With the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases, some Arkansas churches are changing their COVID regulations and implementing mandates to limit the spread of the virus.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — With the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases, some Arkansas churches are changing their COVID regulations and implementing mandates to limit the spread of the virus. 

While regulations like mandatory masks on campus feel like a step backwards for members at St. James United Methodist Church, senior pastor Rev. Ben Crismon encourages the congregation to see themselves as a temple to protect.

"Last Sunday we set some of our COVID protocols in place. In reality we hadn't taken many of them away," Crismon said.

Members receive the service's program through a QR code outside the sanctuary. Masks and hand sanitizer are available upon arrival.

Families are separated into groups that are spaced a part. 

"The only thing that we brought back was the wearing of masks even for vaccinated people," Crimson said. "A large percentage of our congregation is vaccinated. In fact, according to our reservation system in our 8:30 service we just had, everyone was vaccinated."

After every sermon, they spray across the pews and fog the sanctuary to keep it clean.

At Bountiful Blessings World Fellowship, you can also find a church member doing the same cleaning routine after their Sunday service to sanitize their building. 

Senior Pastor, Dr. Stephen W. Christian said they're now requiring masks too.

Initially, he was skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine with how fast it was being distributed. He's had a change of heart after losing loved ones from the virus.

"God allowed this virus to come, and he also allowed the scientists and the doctors to come up with a vaccine," Christian said. "We're taking temperatures of everyone who comes in. Families sit together, but are separated from other individuals."

His congregation is required to wear masks and also offers hand sanitizer.  

He said they're waiting on cases to go down before providing looser regulations, but based on the latest numbers he's unsure of when that will happen. 

Crismon said St. James United Methodist Church will keep regulations for how long they need them. 

"You know in the Spring we were so optimistic as we're getting so many vaccination numbers and case numbers dropped," Crimson said. "We just thought we were going to get back to normal, and as we're seeing these high case numbers that we are, we just realized we're not there yet."