SANTA TERESA, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the first businesses ordered to shut down, under the new rule that targets places with four or more rapid responses, is suing the state. The company claims their numbers are misleading and that the closure could cause a meat shortage. Out of all the businesses and establishments in the state, Stampede Meat Inc., which borders El Paso, has the highest number of rapid responses totaling 11. In a new federal lawsuit, they say that’s out of hundreds of employees.
“There is that occasion where a business will experience a Rapid Response. If you’re not experiencing those in a frequent way, in that period of 14 days, you then have the ability to stay open and continue to serve the public,” said Sec. James Kenney of the New Mexico Environment Department.
In a recent photo taken right around their ordered shutdown, it largely shows people socially distanced and wearing masks both in the meat processing and break areas. Stampede sells a million pounds of meat a week to big businesses like Costco and Walmart along with other major restaurants and stores across New Mexico. They say a forced two-week closure would force the plant to destroy millions of pounds of meat and will cause a shortage.
Stampede Meat Inc. has racked up 11 total rapid responses, 10 of those happening within the last 14 days. But in the shutdown letter from the state, it shows that six positive cases among employees, within four days, is what prompted the closure. In the lawsuit, Stampede Meat says those positive cases represent around 1% of their workforce saying at least 550 people have worked at that facility within the last two weeks.
At the time of the announcement, the governor said these rules apply to all kinds of businesses, no matter the size. “It’s basically everyone. Right? This is how we can crack down on where the virus is spreading,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.
In a statement, the governor’s office says that requiring businesses to close under the public health order has been repeatedly upheld by the courts, adding that Stampede Meat’s 11 rapid responses is “so far beyond the four case threshold that it is alarming.” As of now, the state has ordered Stampede to remain closed until Tuesday of next week.
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