ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Starting April 16, 2023, four local hospitals will change their COVID-related policy regarding the mandated use of face masks in clinical settings. In many locations, masks will be optional, but there are exceptions.

With the New Mexico COVID-19 public health order expiring on March 31, Lovelace Health System, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the UNM Health System and Christus St. Vincent are updating their policies.

Staring April 16, face masks will now be optional in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and patient lobby areas. There are expectations for this change: Patients or visitors with respiratory symptoms will be asked to use a mask. And mask requirements may return if transmission rates increase for COVID, RSV, Flu or other contagious viruses, the hospitals say.

For Health Care workers, staff who want to use additional protection are encouraged to use a mask, and areas that work with units vulnerable populations should continue universal masking. These policy decisions are based on guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Mexico Department of Health and other public health experts, the hospitals say.