ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — New guidelines issued by the CDC have those who are fully immunized for COVID-19 celebrating. Shots mean fewer restrictions such as masks and social distancing when interacting with those who have also been immunized.

The changes have those in the medical and long-term care fields excited.

“The CDC announcement is consistent with what we all release, is that with 95% protection from the first two vaccines, why not?” said Dr. Stephen Barlett, the VP and Chief Medical Officer at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center.

The new rules say you can gather with other fully immunized people indoors without wearing a face covering or social distancing.

“You know, we are social creatures. And being able to have that human interaction is so important,” said Dr. Bartlett.

Local frontline workers say the guidance paves the way for the return of several important aspects of social interaction and non-verbal communication.

“When you can’t see someone’s face, you become anxious,” explained Dr. Bartlett.

“I feel like the best part of my job is smiling, and it’s kind of hard. And also, if there are hearing impairments, it’s very hard for them to understand me with a mask on,” explained Dawn Withers, the Life Enrichment Coordinator at Bickford Senior Living.

Withers says with 97% of the residents having received their second dose of the vaccine, Bickford has already resumed in-house visits and small group activities.

“It’s nice to be able to see our friends who have been lurking behind doors. So it’s a good feeling to know that we are a village again, and we will have opportunities to do things together,” said one Bickford resident Hartenberg.

Withers says while the nursing home is still asking everyone to mask up for the time being, she’s looking forward to the end of the mandate after all residents are fully vaccinated.

“It’s going to be amazing when that happens. I’ll be so excited. I’ll be the first one to fling it off.”

Dr. Bartell says while this is an encouraging step forward, it’s still important to wear a mask in public for the time being, even if you’re fully vaccinated.