People in parts of New Mexico are waiting in long lines to get into grocery stores because some have been forced to close because of new rules imposed by state officials.
Approximately 27 “essential” businesses have been shut down because of the new rules, according to the state government, including six Walmarts, two Albertsons Markets, and several other stores that sell groceries.
The closures were sparked by a new rule from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat.
The rule, issued last week, requires grocery stores and most other so-called essential businesses to close for two weeks if four or more employees test positive with a 14 day period.
“You can’t have a grocery store or another big box store that sells groceries if all of their employees, or the vast majority of them, have COVID. You can’t open up. And that’s the issue, that there’s so much of this infection that it’s inside the very places that people need to access,” Grisham said during a virtual press conference.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The closures have led to long lines, the governor acknowledged.
“We believe that the state has a responsibility for these grocery stores, to figure out these lines. We don’t want them. We appreciate the hours for single heads of household and disabled adults and seniors, we might have to expand those,” she said, adding later: “We need to get our arms around it. We don’t want people waiting in line, even if you’re six feet away, and not everyone is, and even if you have your mask on. It’s cold. We don’t want that. And we know it’s happening. So we’re working with this industry to come up with better responses.”
She said she hopes the lines go away after Thanksgiving.
State officials are working with food banks and senior programs to try to boost the number of deliveries, easing pressure on grocery stores.
One line in Santa Fe outside an Albertsons included about 40 people, the Albuquerque Journal reported. “I think everybody’s a little like, ‘Oh no, we got to go get our groceries. Everything’s going to close down,’” Anna Hagle, a mother of four, told the paper.
“It’s a pain, to put it mildly,” added Dennis Kintigh, mayor of Roswell, where two of the city’s seven grocery stores were forced to shut down. “We’re trying to do everything we can identify to keep the food chain going. We need to be able to make sure people can get groceries here.”
People posted pictures on social media of lines, including President Donald Trump surrogate and former Republican Senate candidate Elisa Martinez.
“Across the state, the elderly & sick are in these lines,” she wrote, showing a line outside a Walmart.
Paul Gessing, another New Mexico resident, captured a line outside a Costco. “Gov. MLG creates modern breadlines in New Mexico thanks to her failed, one-size-fits-all #COVID19 policies which both close AND drastically limit access to grocery stores,” he said.
Grisham on Tuesday called the New Mexico Legislature into special session for proposals that include emergency funding for food banks and $1,200 cash payments to the unemployed.
New Mexico’s Departments of Health and Environment announced on Tuesday that, in a bid to enable businesses to avoid the mandatory two-week closures, they implemented a voluntary surveillance testing and contact tracing agreement.
The agreement requires essential businesses to conduct regular COVID-19 testing among staff, as well as assist the Department of Health in contact tracing efforts. If positive cases are discovered as a result of this testing, the resulting rapid response will not count toward the mandatory 14-day closure requirement in the current public health order.
“We’re empowering businesses to stay open by contributing to critical public health efforts,” said Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney in a statement. “By incentivizing businesses to participate in a regular surveillance testing program, we are keeping New Mexicans safe, slowing the spread of COVID19, and preventing additional closures of essential businesses.”