This One State Has a Secret COVID Lockdown Loophole

Your favorite stores can stay open as long as they do this.

Nothing can compare to the toll COVID-19 has had on human life, but businesses have also been contending with the impact that the pandemic has taken on their bottom line. Thanks to a combination of lost footfall, logistical problems, a contracting economy, and shutdowns, businesses of all varieties have been suffering since March of 2020. But one state has found a way of getting around at least one of these problems. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, officials in New Mexico are offering certain stores a way to stay open even when their workers have become infected with COVID-19. Here's what you need to know about the secret loophole, and for more on the pandemic's worst hotspots, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

Read the original article on Best Life.

New Mexico is under a stay-at-home order that includes the closure of non-essential businesses.

buildings and an empty street in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico at night

On Nov. 13, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a two-week "reset" that reinstated strict COVID restrictions. Through Nov. 30, New Mexicans must shelter in place, and no non-essential businesses can operate in-person. Meanwhile, essential businesses must reduce operations and occupancy to the "greatest possible extent."

As an essential service, grocery stores have been allowed to stay open, with retailers like Walmart also exempt, providing that more than a third of their revenue comes from food sales. And for nationwide changes at that retail giant, check out Walmart Is Now Doing This as Soon as You Go in the Store.

If four of its employees test positive, a store is obligated to close for two weeks.

A woman wearing a face mask putting up a sign in her shop that says closed due to COVID-19

According to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), under the new order, "any 'food and drink establishment, 'place of lodging,' 'retail space,' or 'essential business' … in which members of the public regularly visit, must immediately close for 14 days if there are four or more rapid responses within the last 14 days."

"If there are two or more rapid responses in the prior 14 calendar days at a location, the business location will appear on the Rapid Response COVID-19 Watchlist," the NMED notes. A publicly available list shows which businesses have been closed and/or added to the watch list.

This is all part of an attempt to curb the rapidly rising number of cases in the state. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,240 new COVID cases per day in New Mexico, which marks a 62-percent increase from the average two weeks earlier, The New York Times reports. And for more COVID updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

But if a store is willing to regularly test and contact trace, they can avoid shutting down.

Close up of a young woman having a nasal swab test done by his doctor

A new order on Nov. 24 from the NMED and New Mexico Department of Health announced that supermarkets, big-box retailers, and hotels that are willing to pay the full cost for regular testing and contact tracing of their workforce can avoid this enforced period of closure and remain open.

"By incentivizing businesses to participate in a regular surveillance testing program, we are keeping New Mexicans safe, slowing the spread of COVID-19, and preventing additional closures of essential businesses," James Kenney, secretary of the NMED, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. And for more on the latest safety advice, check out This Is When You Should Get Tested for COVID After Thanksgiving.

The first store to opt in was Albertsons.

A store front sign of the grocery store Albertsons
David Tonelson / Shutterstock

On Nov. 26, Albertsons was the first store to opt in for its 34 locations across New Mexico, according to a report from KRQE, a local CBS News affiliate.

"We are pleased to reach this agreement with the state that allows us to welcome customers and associates back to our stores," Albertsons' Group Vice President Jerry Noland said in a statement.

In response, Kenney said "Albertsons is leading by example" and New Mexico's Department of Health Acting Secretary Billy Jimenez added, "We are looking forward to working with Albertsons and other essential businesses who wish to participate in the program." And for other retailers leading the charge in another way, check out Nordstrom Just Became the First Retailer to Ban These Products.

John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
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