NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – On Wednesday, Albertsons volunteered in a new program to increase protections for their employees at all 34 locations across New Mexico. According to a news release, the New Mexico Departments of Health and Environment announced a new initiative that offers greater public health protections to employees and customers of essential businesses while avoiding closure requirements and the agreement requires regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

All New Mexico Albertsons locations are now back open for business after the state ordered them to temporarily close for too many rapid responses.

“We are pleased to reach this agreement with the state that allows us to welcome customers and associates back to our stores just in time for Thanksgiving,” said Jerry Noland in the same news release, Albertsons’ Group Vice President, Food Safety, Quality Assurance & Occupational Safety.

According to the same news release, the voluntary agreement is available to essential businesses subject to the 14-day closure requirement in the public health order and requires them to conduct regular COVID-19 testing among staff, as well as assist the DOH in contact tracing efforts and if positive cases are found as a result of the testing, the resulting rapid response will not count toward the mandatory 14-day closure requirement in the current public health order.

To participate in the program, a business must submit to both departments a plan that details surveillance testing and contact tracing efforts the business will undertake and a plan must be submitted for each business location. The agreements not only allow essential businesses to avoid a 14-day mandatory closure, but it also clears a path for businesses currently closed to be allowed to reopen before the 14-day period is over; Multiple businesses across the state have expressed their intent to join Albertsons in participating according to the same news release.

“Albertsons is leading by example in the communities they serve to keep COVID-19 out of its workforce and out of its stores,” said Environment Department Secretary James Kenney in the same news release. “We all – state and local government, businesses and citizens – need to stand together to fight this virus.”

“We know that by increasing COVID-19 testing, we improve public health outcomes,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary Billy Jimenez in the same news release. “We are looking forward to working with Albertsons and other essential businesses who wish to participate in the program.”