LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE/KTSM) – Four employees of a Las Cruces Walmart tested positive for COVID-19 over the past three weeks. The Occupational Health and Safety Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) posted notice of imminent and substantial endangerment to employees and the public at the Walmart Saturday morning.
Sunday morning, the store was open again. It’s unclear if the store complied with the orders laid out by the NMED.
The store, located at 3331 Rinconada Boulevard, which employs over 400 people, must close immediately under the order. The Occupational Health and Safety Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department accused Walmart of not requiring employees who test positive to self-quarantine for 14 days. They also claimed Walmart doesn’t notify individuals who came into close personal contact with the employees to get tested.
In a statement sent to KTSM, Walmart disputed the claims made by NMED, saying “Per our company policies that have been in place for several months, if an associate tests positive or is presumed positive for COVID-19, the associate is sent home. The associate may only return to work if all the following requirements are met: 10 days have passed since the first day of symptoms or a positive test; no fever (temperature less than 100°F) without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 72 hours; symptoms are improving, and their healthcare provider considers them fit to return to work.”
“We follow New Mexico’s and the CDC’s requirements to notify associates who may have come into close personal contact with associates who test positive. Associates are informed of the availability of COVID‐19 testing and the Walmart Health plan covers testing for all associates who have Walmart insurance and obtain a note from a physician,” the press statement said.
Walmart says they send home all associates in the state of New Mexico who may have had close contact with any confirmed positive case. The statement did not clarify what is defined as “close contact.” Walmart says anyone sent home for potential close contact is required to quarantine for 14-days.
Saturday afternoon, the Rinconada store closed as part of the NMED order. They require the store to test all of its workers and thoroughly disinfect the building. The state is urging customers who visited the Las Cruces location since June 22 and any New Mexican who believe they’ve been exposed to seek COVID-19 testing.