Updated: November 22, 2020 11:07 AM
Created: November 21, 2020 10:54 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A dozen grocery stores around the state have been forced to close their doors after multiple employees test positive for COVID-19.
Under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health order, businesses with four or more rapid responses in a 14-day period have to shut down for two weeks.
As KOB 4 previously reported, the closures affect several essential business including grocery stores in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Roswell, Carlsbad, Farmington, Hobbs and Las Cruces.
However, residents in southeast New Mexico said they’re worried a lack of options in rural communities will force people to travel out of state or to stand in line at other stores and cause the virus to spread.
When asked if the governor would reconsider her position, a spokesperson for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “The state is not forcing anyone to stand in a crowded line, as you suggest.”
Still, one man told KOB 4 he and his wife tested positive for COVID-19 and had to go shopping in-person because they could not get their groceries delivered or curbside because of a lack of options.
“We want people to stay in their house and want them to isolate, but we’re taking actions to put them out on the street,” he said.
The spokesperson for Gov. Lujan Grisham said the idea of people being forced to stand in line was a “Republican talking point” and “politically motivated.”
When asked about the issue on Thursday, the governor responded to the criticism.
“You can’t have a grocery store or another big box store that sells groceries if all of the employees or the vast majority of them have COVID,” said Lujan Grisham.
“You can’t open up and that’s the issue,” she added.
KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office and several departments to see where those cabinet members stood on the issue.
A spokesperson with the governor’s office sent the following statement and stressed that no one should leave their home if they’re positive for COVID-19:
"This is a fact, please include it: There is no community in the state of New Mexico where COVID-19 closures have closed off all food and water or medicine options for any community or group of people. Every single community where the virus is forcing closures has alternate stores, alternate resources. Moreover, stores are only ordered closed for the protection of public safety when the store's staff members have an abundance of COVID-19 infections among them – surely you and everyone in New Mexico can agree that not one of us would like to be shopping among staff that are contagious. If you are reporting on store closures, please include that fact, as it is critical to the context. To report on stores being closed without explaining that it is because the staff at those stores tested positive for COVID-19, posing a threat to the health of the community, would be a disservice to the public.
Please reiterate to your viewers – if you have tested positive for COVID-19, you may not leave your home. To do so will spread the virus and is unbelievably dangerous for your community. I'm very sorry that the man you spoke with felt he had no other options, but that is simply not the case – please share with your viewers that anyone in his position should call the state's non-health COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-551-0518. Please continue to remind your viewers about the state's websites and hotlines where they can get this critical information, so that KOB may assist us in preventing any future situations like this one. Please make the time to remind your viewers that leaving your house when you are COVID-positive is a surefire way to infect other people and will lead to more illness, more death, and contribute to longer economic restrictions and more and worse suffering every single day in our state."
State officials are urging people who find themselves without access to a local grocery store to call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-551-0518.
For a complete list of businesses that have been closed due to employees testing positive for COVID-19, visit the state’s environment department’s website by clicking here.
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