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Carlsbad Mayor: Making the case to keep Albertsons open amid COVID-19

FOR THE RECORD: The byline on this column has been corrected.

As many residents have already learned, the New Mexico Environment Department ordered Carlsbad’s Albertsons shut from Nov. 18 through Dec. 2 due to the store having four or more COVID-19 “rapid responses” over the past two weeks.

We are working closely with our legislators, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, Eddy County and the Carlsbad Department of Development in making the case to the state of New Mexico that our Albertsons store should be allowed to re-open. Neither of our other two grocery stores currently appear on the NMED’s “watch” list.

We have been informed that most, if not all, of the positive cases at the Carlsbad Albertsons were nearing the conclusion of their quarantine period. The local Albertsons manager, David Beaty, has done an outstanding job throughout the COVID-19 outbreak of reassuring the public and maintaining high safety standards.

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While we recognize the need to reduce the spread of COVID-19, this closure places a nearly impossible burden on our other two grocery stores, which were already close to being overwhelmed and had lengthy lines outside.

The New Mexico Environment Department’s spokeswoman recently acknowledged that the NMED would consider the unique set of circumstances rural communities face when the NMED is deciding whether to order a particular essential business closed. The situation in Carlsbad is well deserving of that consideration.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Carlsbad’s grocery stores were already struggling to serve a rapidly increasing population. While we’ve experienced some population reduction in temporary residents over the past year, Carlsbad is still greatly swollen well past its historic capacity. To adjust to this increased population, Albertsons recently moved into a much larger facility. With our grocery stores enforcing the rule limiting attendance to 75, the lines outside to make a purchase were already extending for blocks. A two-week closure of the largest grocery-only store means our residents may now have to wait outside for up to several hours to purchase necessities, many of which will likely be sold out due to the high demand.

Albertsons is also one of the only locations in the region to offer delivery services. Many of our seniors, quarantined at home to protect their safety, have utilized this service to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19. This closure has eliminated their safest option for obtaining necessities, and many may not physically be able to wait in line for the now necessary amount of time. In addition to food concerns, we have families who also need to purchase critical items such as over the counter medicine, diapers and formula. We will work together as a community to assist everyone, but our nonprofits and agencies are also already stretched to their limits.

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Finally, we have a high level of concern about the psychological impact of this closure. The “panic buying” that defined the spring was only reduced after we were able to reassure our residents that their access to necessities would not be interrupted. It is also likely that people will begin to travel more in order to obtain essential items not available in Carlsbad, which is not what we want to see happen. The governor has stated that she will evaluate these closures and consider their unique circumstances. We encourage her and Sec. Kenney to consider these points.

Sincerely,

Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway

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This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Carlsbad Mayor: Making the case to keep Albertsons open amid COVID-19

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