Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The outgoing mayor of Gallup has asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to put the city on lockdown to help stem the tide of rising coronavirus infection rates.
In a letter sent Thursday to the governor, Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney said the spread of COVID-19 has already caused many deaths in the area and stretched the city’s medical facilities and resources to their capacity.
“Our community is unable to adequately address the outbreak without the imposition of certain restrictions necessary to regulate social distancing, public gatherings, sales of goods and the use of public streets,” McKinney wrote.
He also requested support from state law enforcement agencies, the New Mexico National Guard and the state Department of Transportation in enforcing any order issued by the governor.
Lujan Grisham told a Thursday news conference that she is still evaluating the request but suggested she plans to issue the emergency order.
“It seems to me that those localities are looking at ways for us to be more assertive in restricting access into those communities,” the governor said in response to a question.
She also said that relaxed business restrictions scheduled to take effect Friday in most parts of the state will not be enacted in the state’s northwestern corner.
“We’ve got areas in the state that just aren’t ready for that relaxing,” Lujan Grisham said.
Under the state Riot Control Act, local leaders, including mayors and sheriffs, can ask the governor to proclaim a state of emergency in an affected area.
If the governor decides to do so, she can issue a proclamation either banning people from being in public streets and parks, or limiting how many people can be in such settings.
Other actions allowed under the law include prohibiting the sale of alcohol, closing certain streets or highways and banning the possession of guns or other weapons outside personal residences.
Any such emergency proclamations issued by the governor under the law last for three days, but a new order can be issued upon their expiration.
Gallup is the seat of McKinley County, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with 1,027 confirmed cases and 19 deaths, as of Thursday.
That means more than 1 out of every 100 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19, based on 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Meanwhile, Gallup is also near the Navajo Nation, and some tribal members drive long distances to buy essential supplies in the city and in other nearby towns.
Already, roughly 50 New Mexico National Guard members were deployed to Gallup this month to help grocery stores enforce state social distancing guidelines, which include only allowing 20% of a store’s maximum capacity to be inside at any time.
State Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, recently said some individuals have flouted instructions to keep distance between themselves and others.
He also called for more restrictive measures, saying, “We need to be locked down – people are not listening.”
Gallup’s mayor made the request on his last day in office. Mayor-elect Louis Bonaguidi was sworn into office Thursday afternoon and officially takes over as mayor Friday.