New Mexico courts update protocols for wearing masks, protective face coverings

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Directives for wearing masks or protective face coverings inside New Mexico courthouses will change later this month.

The New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts sent out a news release on Feb. 28 that explains people can enter courthouses and judicial buildings without masks or protective face coverings starting on March 21.

However, masks will remain mandatory when inside a courtroom or jury assembly area, and those entering a courthouse will still need to answer health screening questions.

The release states that the space for physical distancing is decreasing from six feet to three feet, and is enforceable inside courthouses and when people enter or exit buildings.

San Juan County Magistrate Court is pictured on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 in Aztec.

Court employees, judges and hearing officers must continue to wear masks when interacting with the public and in courtrooms or jury assembly areas. They do not have to wear masks when inside their work areas.

The courts are also maintaining weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees, judges and contractors.

"Until the new protocols take effect on March 21, masks will continue to be required for anyone entering a New Mexico courthouse or judicial building," the release states.

The updated protocols for state courts were announced as New Mexico adjusts its response to the pandemic. In February, New Mexico was among states that took steps to end mask mandates for majority of indoor public spaces.

New Mexico Supreme Court

"While we hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it remains crucial that New Mexico courts continue to take prudent steps to protect the health and well being of jurors, litigants, attorneys, judicial employees, judges and all others entering a courthouse," Chief Justice Michael Vigil said in the release.

The mandate for people to wear masks in courthouses and buildings was ordered by the state Supreme Court in May 2020. The high court started implementing measures to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection since March 2020.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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