Krasimir Hristov, a nurse practitioner who owns and runs Reinecke Medical and Chiropractic in Roswell, compared the current public health order to Nazi Germany and said he believes masks are useless against the virus.
The sign outside the clinic reads, “This isn’t Nazi Germany and we aren’t the Gestapo. If you do or do not want to wear a mask you are still welcome here.”
“When we enforce our rule on people, that is a dictatorship,” said Hristov. “When we have the freedom to inform people so they can make an educated decision, that’s democracy.”
Hristov, who has owned the medical center since 2013, said his own research shows “masks are proven useless against airborne viruses.”
“Your eyes are very much exposed regardless of what kind of mask you have,” said Hristov. “So when people come in and they have a mask and their eyes are exposed, basically what that means they still have an open portal of entry where the virus could get in.”
That advice goes against the guidance from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New Mexico’s top doctor, Dr. David Scrase.
Scrase, New Mexico’s human services secretary, said wearing a mask both protects people and helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“If you had to have an upcoming surgery, how comfortable would you feel with your operating team not wearing masks or not wearing gloves,” said Scrase. “I haven’t run into anybody yet who would feel comfortable with that kind of scenario.”
The New Mexico Human Services Department responded to Hirstov’s sign by email, saying in part: “All New Mexicans are required to wear masks at this time, especially when visiting medical clinics. It is shocking that a medical provider would encourage their patients not to wear masks and blatantly put them at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
The department said violators could face criminal and/or civil penalties.
Hristov still doesn’t think masks should be a requirement. “People are exposed to the virus or to people’s germs no matter where they go,” he said.
Last week, the city of Roswell voted not to enforce the state’s mask requirement. However, the New Mexico Department of Health and the State Police are still enforcing the mandate.