SUNLAND PARK, NM. – As part of the New Mexico Department of Health’s (NMDH) COVID-19 rapid response program, Bridgeview, Ill.-based Stampede Meat Inc. was issued a public health order on Nov. 3, requiring it to close its Sunland Park, NM, processing plant for two weeks. According to the NMDH, any place of business or high-risk facility or population where a positive COVID-19 case is discovered, triggers a rapid response by the state’s health department. Those businesses where at least four rapid responses are conducted are issued an order to immediately close. Between Oct. 23 and Oct. 27, six rapid responses were reported in response to COVID-19 infections at Stampede Meat and the plant was required to close for 14 consecutive days. 

“As part of the rapid response process, the New Mexico Department of Health requires that the identified entity follow appropriate isolation, quarantine and infection control protocols to mitigate potential COVID-19 transmission and limit risk to employees and the public,” the NMDH said.

New Mexico is reporting a steady increase in the spread of the virus, with 862 new cases reported on Nov. 5, bringing the state’s total to 51,110.

According to the Stampede Meat website, on Sept. 23, the company’s three processing plants in Illinois received infectious disease prevention certification from the state.

“Stampede’s robust COVID-19 pandemic plan and training program, that incorporates and exceeds guidelines set forth by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) and World Health Organization (WHO) was approved by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association as a Healthy Workplace Plan,” the company said in an announcement.

Regarding the certification, Christina Hackney, HR director, said, “Since the onset of the pandemic, our dedicated COVID Safety Task Force has met weekly to establish, improve and expand Stampede’s 80+ precautionary measures to protect the safety of our Stampede team members by significantly reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in our workplace.”

Stampede officials did not respond to a request for more information about the plant closure in New Mexico. The company purchased the former Tyson Foods plant in late 2018, announcing plans to invest $36 million to renovate the 285,000-square-foot facility and initially hiring about 300 workers.