Volunteers, staff at local senior center caught not wearing masks

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Senior citizens remain among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, but workers at one senior center in Albuquerque were recently caught not wearing masks. The complaint came from an anonymous person who had been to the center. The city’s Environmental Health Department said it is unacceptable.

Over the course of the pandemic, the City of Albuquerque has reminded people to keep doing their part. “We need to keep doing the things we have been doing whether it is getting tested, face masks or social distancing,” Mayor Tim Keller said in March.

However, it turns out that some city employees aren’t doing their part. “It is concerning that it is at a city facility,” Mark DiMenna with the Environmental Health Department said.

The Environmental Health Department received a complaint last week of three volunteers and staff working in the kitchen area at Los Volcanes Senior Center not wearing masks at all or correctly. “They were just complacent and got sloppy about having masks fully covering their face all the time,” DiMenna said.

DiMenna said inspectors showed up Thursday and corrected it on the spot. “Not necessarily a higher standard, but I think the message we have tried to get across to employees loud and clear is that we are going to hold ourselves as an organization just as accountable as we are going to hold the other businesses we are looking at,” DiMenna said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the city’s Joint Information Center said in part that Senior Affairs’ more than 200 staff members have been essential workers throughout the pandemic, and this is not a widespread issue in the department. The statement said that the incident was an anomaly that has since been corrected.

KRQE News 13 asked DiMenna if it is acceptable that city employees at a senior center are needing to be educated on proper mask wearing this far into the pandemic. “We don’t really want to have to educate anyone at this point,” DiMenna said. “Clearly, we have been doing this for a long time. I don’t think it starts from scratch education, ‘did you know you should be wearing a mask?’ It is really more of a refresher.”

DiMenna said they are seeing complacency with mask wearing throughout the community as the weather warms up and vaccines become more available. He said it is too early to let our guards down. DiMenna said this is the first time they’ve responded to a COVID complaint at that senior center.

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