New Mexico governor extends Navajo Nation gateway lockdown

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday she will extend the lockdown on a western New Mexico city to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.

Her office said she will lengthen the lockdown on Gallup, New Mexico — a gateway to the Navajo Nation — until Sunday at noon.

Under the order, businesses will stay closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and only two people may travel together in a car. Gallup residents are ordered to remain at home except for emergency outings.

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

Emergency powers under the state Riot Control Act originally were scheduled to expire at noon Thursday for the city of Gallup unless extended by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Sheriff’s deputies and state police have blockaded roadways leading in and out of the city since May 1 to restrict travel and business to emergency services and provisions, while limiting vehicles to two occupants.

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Health officials fear that Gallup, a popular supply stop for rural residents of the Navajo Nation, became a vector for transmission of COVID-19 at stores, restaurants and water fill-up stations for people without full household plumbing.

Health officials say per-capita infections in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County are twelve times the rate for Albuquerque, the state’s largest metropolitan area.

As of Wednesday, the county had 1,337 confirmed coronavirus infections and 29 related deaths. Intensive care beds are full at two local hospitals, and patients with acute respiratory symptoms are being transferred to Albuquerque.

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Mayor Louie Bonaguidi said Wednesday that the local pace of infections has not fallen, though delays in test results make it hard to determine the success of the lockdown.

“Our concern was all of these people coming into town, that we’re going to spread it,” he said. “We don’t want them taking it home to their families.”

State health officials reported four new deaths in McKinley County on Wednesday from COVID-19 and 63 new local infections — the highest tallies among 33 counties statewide.

McKinley County is home to about 72,000 residents, including indigenous Zuni Pueblo and parts of the Navajo Nation.

FEMA crew responding to COVID-19 crisis on the Navajo Nation

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