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State health department closes Home Depot over COVID-19 cases

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Home Depot in Farmington is closed after state health officials called for its "immediate" closure due to the number of COVID-19 infections among employees.

The New Mexico Environment Department placed the home improvement retailer, located at 3560 E. Main St., on its daily Rapid Response COVID-19 watchlist when employees tested positive for the virus.

A letter from the New Mexico Department of Health to the business explained that the closure was required because the cases happened within a 14-day period and in accordance with the public health order issued on Jan. 29.

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An empty parking lot was seen on Feb. 13 at Home Depot at 3560 E. Main St. in Farmington. The retailer was closed by the New Mexico Department of Health after four employees tested positive for COVID-19.

One case of COVID-19 infection was found on Jan. 22, Jan. 25, Jan. 29 and Feb. 1, according to the letter.

It goes on to explain that Home Depot may become exempted from the closure if the business enters into an agreement for surveillance testing and contact tracing plan with the environment and health departments.

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"We're working with the state and our focus is the safety of our associates and customers, which is why we've put numerous safety measures ...in place including requiring masks, daily health checks for associates, social distancing, contract tracing and enhanced cleaning in addition to paid leave and time-off policies for associates," Home Depot Spokesperson Margaret Watters Smith said to The Daily Times on Feb. 13.

Customers on Feb. 13 are informed about the closure of the Home Depot at 3560 E. Main St. in Farmington.

She added that during the closure, customers who need to purchase essential items may use the company's website and its options for delivery.

The company's website lists the location as "temporarily closed" on its store locator.

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Customers were seen stopping at the location on Feb. 13, only to leave after reading the notice about the closure posted outside the main entrance.

For those who parked their vehicles, they were informed by a person patrolling the parking lot that the store was closed.

A customer stops on Feb. 13 to read the closure notice posted outside the Home Depot at 3560 E. Main St. in Farmington.

According to the environment department, the store has had positive tests among employees since October 2020. That month, the department began publishing the names of businesses, government agencies and schools that have two or more rapid response tests during a 14-day period.

In April of 2020 a department manager and an associate died from COVID-19. A company spokesperson talked to The Daily Times then about efforts to protect workers and customers at the Farmington store.

The Home Depot is the second retailer to be closed by the health department in Farmington. The Walmart Supercenter at 1400 W. Main St. was closed by the department from Nov. 7 to Nov. 21.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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