LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Federal officials have recently relaxed some masking rules after more than two years of pandemic precautions, allowing health care workers in Arkansas to finally again treat patients face to face.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, relaxed mask mandates in health care settings.

“It’s not been a normal, cultural practice in healthcare or across our population in the United States to wear masks,” said doctor and professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at UAMS, Robert Hopkins.

Since the pandemic, wearing a mask in health care facilities has been mandatory.

“Masks are inconvenient, yes they’re uncomfortable,” said Hopkins.

Friday, the CDC updated its policy for health care workers.

“In areas that have low rates of transmission, it is reasonable for healthcare institutions to not continue with mandatory masking,” stated Hopkins.

Robert Hopkins has been a doctor for over 40 years.

“I wanted to be a physician as long back as I can remember. I hear stories from my family members about me putting together first aid kits when I was a preschooler,” stated Hopkins.

He said he enjoyed getting to interact with patients face-to-face.

“I do miss seeing people’s faces,” said Hopkins.

Unfortunately for Arkansas, “we don’t have any counties that are in that low-transmission risk,” said Hopkins.

With flu season on its way, “as long as we’ve got widespread respiratory illnesses, I’m going to continue to wear my mask when I’m around other people,” stated Hopkins.

Dr. Hopkins said he does look forward to the day we might see a little normalcy, but until then, he will keep masking up.

“A mask is a pretty small investment to make for the health of ourselves and others around us,” stated Hopkins.

Hopkins said everyone at UAMS will continue to wear masks until Pulaski County is considered low transmission.

Mask policies for patients will also be altered if that is the direction Arkansas moves in.

For more information about the updated CDC masking policies, you can visit the CDC website.