Home News COVID-19 Situation City plans special meeting about store closures

City plans special meeting about store closures

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Long lines outside Walmart are seen Saturday afternoon due to other store closures as well as state orders limiting how many people are allowed inside a retail building at one time. Lines at this store and other grocery stores have been seen at times in Roswell since Thursday, when the state closed two food stores here. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The Roswell City Council intends to hold a special meeting before the end of the month to discuss local options after the state ordered two food stores here to close temporarily due to COVID-19 cases at their locations.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh said staff and officials are working on an agenda. The meeting has been tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. on Nov. 30.

“It has people distressed,” Kintigh said about the closures. “I’ve gotten my fair share of texts and emails.”

He said people had expressed concerns about not having enough food and other essential items after the state closed Albertsons Market on South Main Street and Sam’s Club on North Main Street on Wednesday evening. The stores have been ordered to remain closed until Dec 2. Their pharmacies will continue to provide services to customers who call.

Kintigh said people have also have let them know about the long lines that now can be seen outside other grocery stores in the city, as other public health orders require businesses to limit the number of customers inside their buildings at any one time.

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In a Thursday social media post, Kintigh said a special city council meeting was needed to consider how the city could respond to state actions.

“The courts have left us very few alternatives in dealing with these state orders,” Kintigh wrote. “We are planning a special City Council meeting to discuss our options and to seek the best ways to protect and serve this community.”

The closures came after the governor announced Oct. 22 a new action meant to target “hotspots” of coronavirus infections. If certain types of businesses — including retailers, food and drink establishments, lodging businesses and essential businesses — had four or more Rapid Responses within a two-week period, they could be ordered to close for 14 days. Since that time, the order had been amended to clarify that closures would pertain to businesses frequently visited by the public and that the state could decide not to close businesses if their goods and services are deemed essential to the community.

Rapid Responses are when teams from the New Mexico Environment Department work with employers who have reported a COVID-19 case at their worksite to clean and sanitize facilities, test all those affected and perform contact tracing.

While closures by Saturday afternoon had affected only the two stores in Roswell, Albertsons Market locations in Eddy and Lea counties also were ordered closed Wednesday. Statewide there have been at least 11 groceries and retailers selling food given the temporary closure orders.

“We have seen the long lines outside the stores and know the frustration infecting our community,” Kintigh said. “The stores still open are working hard to accommodate the need to continue to provide medicine and food to Roswell citizens. The employees of these businesses are our neighbors, friends and family. We must not forget that, regardless of how we feel about the decisions made in Santa Fe.”

Chaves County Manager Stanton Riggs also said Thursday that he intended to coordinate with the city to see what might be done to protest the closures, saying he and commissioners had received calls from panicked residents.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7110, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.