Virus masks may become a part of winter apparel for the long term, an expert at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center says.

James Marx, executive director of quality and performance management at the hospital, said in a community lecture that a routine coronavirus booster shot also will be likely if variants continue to crop up.

Marx’s comments reflect the possibility that the coronavirus will modify the way virus seasons will be handled.

“I think that we will be continuing to wear masks throughout the winter during respiratory virus season,” Marx said in a September video designed to answer questions from The New Mexican’s readers. Masks may become a yearly event in the winter, especially when people are in close quarters, said Marx, who has a doctorate and 42 years of experience as a registered nurse.

While many people wore masks last winter, Marx said, physicians and scientists saw rates of the flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, decline because of coronavirus precautions.

Marx, Christus medical director of quality Dr. Theresa Ronan and chief medical officer Dr. David Gonzales spoke in the video. Some of their thoughts echo recent statements by Dr. David Scrase, who heads the state’s Human Services and Health departments. Scrase said masks likely would be common for years.

Marx said there probably will be regular coronavirus booster shots, just as there are annual booster shots for the flu.

The three speakers stressed the importance of getting fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and cited numbers reflecting the vaccinations’ effectiveness. Ronan said of 22 Christus St. Vincent patients who were in critical care in the stretch from March through much of September, 19 were unvaccinated, or 86 percent.

Gonzales encouraged patients to get the flu shot and the coronavirus vaccination regimen.

“You don’t want to have both viruses at the same time,” he said.

In other observations:

u Ronan said 229 of 2,400 Christus St. Vincent workers contracted the coronavirus, but 215 of those cases were acquired outside the workplace. Nearly all 229 recovered and returned to work, she said.

u Gonzales said he believed holiday travel will be OK. But he said vacationers should wear masks, maintain their distance from others and get tested for the virus when appropriate.

u Marx said medical experts have learned temperature screening to detect whether people have the coronavirus is ineffective because many who contract the disease don’t have a fever.

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