Lujan Grisham orders lockdown for Gallup - Albuquerque Journal

Lujan Grisham orders lockdown for Gallup

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico State Police officers and New Mexico National Guard members are manning checkpoints at Gallup. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday invoked a rarely used state law, putting Gallup on lockdown for three days in an attempt to slow the coronavirus outbreak that has been running rampant across northwest New Mexico.

The emergency order under the state’s Riot Control Act closed all roads going into Gallup for most non-residents and directed Gallup residents to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go outside.

It took effect at noon Friday and will last until Monday, though some Gallup civic leaders said they expect Lujan Grisham will end up extending it.

In issuing the order, Lujan Grisham said a COVID-19 outbreak in one part of New Mexico poses a problem for the entire state.

“The spread of this virus in McKinley County is frightful,” the governor 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.”

In addition to closing roads, the three-day emergency order mandates that all businesses in Gallup be closed from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the lockdown, with the exception of medical facilities, and that no more than two people travel together in a vehicle.

The drastic order is aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus in one of northwest New Mexico’s largest cities – and a shopping destination for many members of the Navajo Nation and other outlying areas.

Gallup is the seat of McKinley County, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with 1,064 confirmed cases and 20 deaths, as of Friday.

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.

New Mexico’s total death toll from the coronavirus hit 131 on Friday, with state health officials reporting eight additional deaths due to complications from COVID-19.

The most recent deaths included three from nursing homes in San Juan County – a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s who were residents at Life Care Center in Farmington, and a woman in her 90s who was a resident of Cedar Ridge Inn in Farmington.

In all, the state now has 3,513 confirmed cases of the virus, though infection rates have slowed in other parts of the state.

As of Friday, there were 159 people hospitalized in New Mexico due to COVID-19 and state officials have designated 785 people as having recovered from the disease – or about 22.3% of those infected.

‘Drastic measures’ needed

Bill Lee, CEO of the Gallup McKinley County Chamber of Commerce, said Gallup’s usual population of roughly 22,000 can swell to 100,000 people or more on weekends and paydays when people from around the area come to do their shopping.

That role as a regional trade center has made it difficult to enforce social distancing guidelines and the outgoing mayor of Gallup asked Lujan Grisham on Thursday to put the city on lockdown.

The order could have an economic impact and Lee said in an interview: “If I told you the business community was happy about it, I would not be telling you the full truth.”

But he said most business owners were hopeful the emergency order would be a positive development – if it ends up reducing person-to-person contact.

“We have to take some drastic measures to flatten the curve and slow the virus … so that we can get our economy rolling again,” Lee told the Journal.

Elected officials in the city – and in nearby tribal areas – have also backed the governor’s action.

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat and chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said she hopes limiting traffic in and out of Gallup provides some relief.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed out here that this thing will turn around,” Lundstrom said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also applauded the restrictions imposed by Lujan Grisham and urged tribal members to stay home as much as possible to restrict the spread of COVID-19.

‘A crisis of the highest order’

Shortly after Friday’s emergency order was announced, the state Department of Transportation said it had set up roadblocks to restrict traffic going into Gallup from all directions.

Interstate 40, which passes through Gallup, will remain open, as will nearby truck stops and rest areas, DOT spokeswoman Marisa Maez said.

But checkpoints were set up on all I-40 exits and off-ramps, and message boards alerting drivers to the lockdown were posted along roadways on the outskirts of Gallup, Maez added.

Gallup resident Phillip Silva on Friday bought essentials for the weekend as a lockdown was ordered for the city. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Only residents of Gallup, those who work in the city and members of the media will be able to pass through the checkpoints, which are being manned by State Police and New Mexico National Guard members.

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.

While Lujan Grisham issued the emergency order, she did not prohibit the sale of alcohol or ban possession of guns or other weapons outside personal residences, also allowable actions under the law.

“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,” new Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi said Friday. “However, the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Gallup is a crisis of the highest order.”

Gallup civic leaders say the coronavirus outbreak has stretched the city’s medical facilities and resources to their capacity.

And even before the lockdown order, Gallup city officials and area legislators had asked the New Mexico National Guard to help enforce social distancing guidelines at grocery stores.

Roughly 50 National Guard members were deployed for the purpose last month.

Journal staff writers Dan McKay and Elise Kaplan contributed to this report.

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » Lujan Grisham orders lockdown for Gallup

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Man charged in connection with fatal shooting of girlfriend
ABQnews Seeker
After the death of his 18-year-old ... After the death of his 18-year-old girlfriend in a Saturday-night shooting, Carlos Gonzalez, 24, was charged with 2nd degree murder.
Biz Bits: Albuquerque Business Journal
ABQnews Seeker
Biz Bits: Albuquerque Business Journal Biz Bits: Albuquerque Business Journal
Business Column: In financial matters, government role has upside ...
ABQnews Seeker
Politics is directly intersecting with the ... Politics is directly intersecting with the economy — macro, micro, public and personal — in a not-so-rare standoff in Washington, D.C.
A Craigslist ad led these locals to start a ...
ABQnews Seeker
Food is Free Albuquerque will begin ... Food is Free Albuquerque will begin its Farm and Orchard Gleaning Project in June
University of Wisconsin project seeks closure for New Mexico ...
ABQnews Seeker
Raoul Zavala was not supposed to ... Raoul Zavala was not supposed to be on the plane that day. ...
'Then you heard the next volley': Red River residents ...
ABQnews Seeker
Locals said they noticed on Thursday ... Locals said they noticed on Thursday and Friday that Bandidos and other motorcycle clubs were flaunting their colors throughout town during the rally. Bandidos, ...
Experts urge caution for recreation on the Rio Grande. ...
ABQnews Seeker
In Corrales, fire and police officials ... In Corrales, fire and police officials have done 29 rescues of people and dogs stranded on the river between Siphon Beach and Alameda — ...
Who are the Bandidos? What we know about the ...
ABQnews Seeker
Here's what we know about the ... Here's what we know about the Bandidos Motorcycle Club.
Rick Wright: First visit to Unser Racing Museum on ...
ABQnews Seeker
Until Friday, some 18 years after ... Until Friday, some 18 years after it opened and three days before its permanent closing, I'd never visited Albuquerque's Unser Racing Museum. Now, I ...