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Court denies emergency order after southern New Mexico’s Stampede Meat sues to halt virus closure

stampede-meat-sign
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The sign at the entrance of southern New Mexico's Stampede Meat plant.

SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico — A federal judge on Tuesday denied issuing an emergency order sought by a southern New Mexico meat processing plant seeking to immediately halt a closure directive from state officials due to an outbreak of coronavirus at the facility.

Stampede Meat, at 5700 McNutt Road on Sunland Park/Santa Teresa border, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state's health and environment departments over the closure order.

U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez rejected Stampede's request for an immediate injunction saying Stampede failed to "clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result" while the court takes time to consider the case.

The judge set deadlines later this week for written arguments to be filed before determining whether the court will take up the issue.

Earlier this month, Stampede was among three business that state regulators said must shut down for two weeks due to recent responses by state health teams to Covid-19 infections among employees. At Stampede, state records show at least a half-dozen employees at the facility tested positive within a four-day period.

In the lawsuit, Stampede contends it should not be subject to the state closure order because the federal government deems its operations to be essential to the nation's food supply.

Stampede had a prior, more significant outbreak earlier in the pandemic. In May, more than 50 cases of employee infections were identified during several rounds of state testing.

Illinois-based Stampede Meat opened the southern New Mexico plant in a former Tyson Foods location in 2018. It began operations with 300 employees with plans to expand to a workforce of nearly 1,300 by 2024.

Around the time of the prior virus cases, the company said it had adopted more safety measures to limit spread.

Stampede said its processing facilities are cleaned and sanitized daily, with high-touch areas sanitized every half hour. Employees and visitors are screened and have their temperatures taken before entering. Employees also are instructed to wear layered protection including face masks, neck warmers and face shields.

ABC-7 has previously reported that the facility was the target of OSHA complaints by workers who expressed Covid-19 concerns weeks before the first confirmed case at the plant was announced.

Below you can first view a copy of the judge's ruling and then read the entire lawsuit.

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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