The city is under emergency restrictions to control the outbreak, according to a statement from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
All roads into the city have been closed, businesses must close between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. and vehicles can only carry two individuals, according to the governor’s order. The governor is recommending that residents remain at home except for emergency outings and those essential for health and safety.
Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act to authorize these temporary restrictions. The move comes after the mayor requested the governor to declare a state of emergency in the city, according to a letter made public by the governor’s office.
“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,” Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi wrote in his letter. “However, the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Gallup is a crisis of the highest order. Immediate action is necessary.”
Gallup is in McKinley County, which has 1,027 positive cases of Covid-19 as of Thursday. The county has more than 30% of the state’s 3,411 cases and the most positive cases in the entire state, the governor’s statement said.
“Its infection trend has shown no sign of flattening,” according to the statement.
McKinley County has reported an additional 207 positive cases in the last two days, more than every other county in the state has reported total during the pandemic except for three, according to state officials.
Under the Riot Control Act, anyone who fails to comply with restrictions imposed under the act is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.
‘Virus is running amok’
The emergency order and road closures will be enforced by Gallup city police, the McKinley County Sheriff’s Department, the New Mexico State Police and state Department of Transportation. The New Mexico National Guard will provide support in a non-law enforcement capacity.
“The spread of this virus in McKinley County is frightful,” Lujan Grisham said. “And it shows that physical distancing has not occurred and is not occurring. The virus is running amok there. It must be stopped, and stricter measures are necessary.”
Any state of emergency proclaimed under the Riot Control Act ends automatically at noon on the third day after it becomes effective. The Gallup emergency is effective immediately and will expire at noon on Monday, May 4, unless the city requests an extension.
The Navajo Nation has extended its state of emergency declaration and said the nation’s government offices will now be closed until May 17. The Navajo Nation extends into the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, covering more than 27,000 square miles.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says he supports the governor’s lockdown plan.
“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,” he said.
“The imperative for all of us to remain home and physically distant has not changed. It is even more crucial for New Mexicans in the northwestern region. But what is happening in the northwest could happen in any part of our state. We must remain vigilant,” Lujan Grisham said.