UPDATE# 2: The New Mexico Environment Department has now clarified that a Las Cruces Walmart store which had a coronavirus outbreak has been allowed to reopen Sunday after the store was disinfected and the company brought in workers from other locations to staff it.
Walmart's corporate office said it was testing all employees who worked at the Rinconada store after being told to do so by state order. The company said Sunday that those workers were at their homes and would be paid for any scheduled shifts until test results clear them to return to work.
Earlier Sunday, a social media post from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham caused confusion when it said that Walmart was defying the state closure order.
The governor's spokesperson indicated the post, while made on Sunday, was actually referring to events from Saturday. Here's what the governor's Sunday post said...
“Stores disregarding Covid-safe practices place their entire community and our state at risk. Workers and customers MUST be safe. The New Mexico Environment Department posted a notice of imminent danger at the Rinconada Walmart in Las Cruces after four employees tested positive for Covid-19 and the company refused to cooperate by shutting down the store, disinfecting and testing all employees. The state has zero tolerance for unsafe practices. We will continue to act quickly and ensure consequences for those who fail their responsibility.”
The governor's office has since updated the post to add the word "yesterday" to it.
Separately, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Environment Department clarified that the store was approved to reopen Sunday, but she added that the situation remained an ongoing investigation.
NMED's Maggie Hayden indicated in a statement Sunday that Walmart had failed to show it was complying with state health and safety guidelines, which prompted Saturday's state action.
"Employers are required to demonstrate compliance with worker protection regulations. When employers are unable to provide timely and/or accurate information – as occurred in this instance – NMED will act based on the absence of such information."
Hayden noted Sunday that NMED was still awaiting documentation from Walmart to show the Las Cruces store’s "conformance to these policies."
UPDATE #1: An ABC-7 photographer observed the troubled Walmart on Rinconada Boulevard in Las Cruces had reopened Sunday morning, despite being ordered closed by the New Mexico Environment Department just a day prior due to a virus outbreak.
Walmart personnel said the store had been sanitized and disinfected overnight, which was among the requirements laid down by state regulators.
It was not immediately clear if the NMED had approved the reopening; there was no immediate response to requests for comment from state officials.
ORIGINAL REPORT: LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Hours after the state of New Mexico on Saturday ordered an east Las Cruces Walmart to close immediately due a virus outbreak that it said posed a public danger, the store finally shut its doors.
Four employees at the Walmart on Rinconada Boulevard tested positive for Covid-19 over the past three weeks, according to a statement issued by the the New Mexico Environment Department.
The NMED issued a notice Saturday morning ordering the store's "immediate closure" due to "imminent and substantial endangerment to employees and the public."
However, an ABC-7 crew on scene about 4:30 p.m. observed that the parking lot was still packed with hundreds of customers - and a manager declined to comment as to why the store was open.
Walmart's corporate headquarters later said the store had closed as of Saturday evening, but did not offer an explanation as to why it had remained open for much of the day in what appeared to be a violation of the state mandate.
NMED spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said part of the reason for concern is because "Walmart stated they do not require employees who test positive to self-quarantine for 14 days, nor do they notify individuals who came into close personal contact with such employees to get tested."
Walmart maintained some of the state's claims were inaccurate, but in a copy of their policy provided to ABC-7, it indicated an employee who tests positive could return to work in as a few as ten days absent fever or other symptoms.
Over 400 employees work at the infected store and state officials said they had ordered Walmart to test all of them. In addition, the state has directed the retail giant to "thoroughly" disinfect the building. There was no immediate word as to when the store might be allowed to reopen.
Walmart said late Saturday it was hiring outside cleaning specialists to disinfect the store in accordance with the state's directive.
Hayden urged customers who may have shopped at that store since June 22 to get tested for the virus. She said testing hours and information were available online at cvprovider.nmhealth.org/directory.html.
New Mexico officials also said workers of other employers can report complaints about workplace health and safety violations by e-mailing complaints.OSHA@state.nm.us or calling 505-476-8700.