May 1, 2020

Guv orders Gallup lockdown to slow COVID-19 spread

As cases continue to grow in McKinley County, the governor invoked the state’s Riot Control Act to authorize a lockdown of Gallup, at the behest of both the outgoing and new mayor of the city.

The state closed all roads into Gallup as of noon on Friday, ordered that essential businesses will be closed from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and vehicles traveling in the city can only have a maximum of two individuals.

The order from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that people should remain sheltered in place at home unless they are traveling for essential or emergency outings.

Gallup city police and the McKinley County Sheriff’s Department will help the New Mexico State police to enforce the emergency order. The order will run through noon on Monday, May 4.

“I recognize this request is unusual and constitutes a drastic measure, and the emergency powers set out under the Riot Control Act should be invoked sparingly,” said Gallup Mayor Louie Bonaguidi. “However, the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Gallup is a crisis of the highest order. Immediate action is necessary.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also praised the move. The Navajo Nation, which includes portions of McKinley County and is very near Gallup, has seen one of the largest and fastest spreads of COVID-19 in the country.

“We fully support the proactive measures implemented by Governor Lujan Grisham, at the request of the City of Gallup,” Nez said in a statement. “We have many members of the Navajo Nation that reside in Gallup and many that travel in the area and their health and safety is always our top priority. Thank you to the Governor for her leadership and decisive actions. We urge everyone to stay home, stay safe, and save lives!”

State legislators and county officials who represent the city and surrounding areas also said it was necessary.

The governor announced a Navajo Nation Rapid Response Team on Thursday during her weekly press conference.

The strict measures come as McKinley County has become the epicenter of cases in New Mexico, with more confirmed cases than Bernalillo County, despite having only 9 percent of the population. Gallup is the county seat and the most-populous city in the county.

While the state eased restrictions in most areas of the state, it left the previous restrictions in place for McKinley County along with San Juan and Cibola counties. 

Lujan Grisham also said on Thursday that she would consider more drastic measures for hard-hit areas, if necessary. Friday’s lockdown in Gallup was the first of these.