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San Juan Regional Medical Center will enforce mask policy after July 1

Vaccinated people can still be carriers
San Juan Regional Medical Center plans to require visitors to wear face masks, even after the state drops restrictions July 1. (Associated Press file)

FARMINGTON – The state of New Mexico will drop all COVID-19 restrictions July 1. But some places, such as businesses and hospitals, may continue requiring face coverings.

The requirement is expected to confuse or upset some visitors or customers, including at San Juan Regional Medical Center, which has already reported an increase in the number of people who have expressed displeasure at being asked to wear masks – even before restrictions are dropped.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last week the state’s color-coded COVID-19 restriction system will be retired July 1.

Lujan Grisham’s goal was to have 60% of New Mexicans fully vaccinated by June 18, so by the time vaccines would be in full effect, July 1, the state could reopen every aspect of the economy and allow all businesses to operate at 100% capacity like before the pandemic.

A news release from the governor’s office said businesses can still adopt and require additional precautions for employees and guests at business owners’ discretion.

“This is exciting and welcome news in our fight against COVID-19,” said hospital spokeswoman Laura Werbner. “However, in order to protect our vulnerable patient populations and each other from this devastating disease, San Juan Regional Medical Center and our San Juan Health Partners clinics will continue to follow COVID-safe practices, including the use of PPE for our caregivers and mandatory masks for everyone who enters our facilities.”

San Juan County has a vaccination rate of 61.7%, which means 38% of residents in the community are not fully vaccinated and can spread the virus, Werbner said.

“When you’re in public, you are around people whose vaccination status you don’t know,” Werbner said. “While some areas of San Juan County have high vaccination rates, not all areas do.”

Even so, the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, especially for those who have not yet received the second dose.

“We have seen cases where patients hospitalized with COVID told us they were planning to get the vaccine, but just hadn’t gotten around to it,” said Dr. Brad Greenberg, emergency medicine physician and director of emergency preparedness at San Juan Regional Medical Center. “Don’t wait for COVID to infect you or a loved one. Make that choice to get vaccinated now before it’s too late.”

Werbner said vaccinated people can still be carriers of the virus, meaning those vaccinated can spread it without feeling sick themselves. Because of that, the medical center will still enforce mask-wearing policies beyond July 1.

“Enjoy the benefits that will come with New Mexico’s reopening,” Werbner said. “Spend time doing the things you love with the ones you love. Continue being safe, which means continuing to wear a mask anytime you visit San Juan Regional Medical Center and San Juan Health Partners. We look forward to this next chapter and to moving closer to ‘normal’ together as a community.”

mmitchell@durangoherald.com

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