Mandatory lockdown quiets city of Gallup amid coronavirus pandemic

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP – Motorists driving toward Gallup on northbound U.S. Highway 491 were greeted with flashing lights from New Mexico State Police units as the city remained under a mandatory lockdown authorized earlier in the day by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The city entered the lockdown at noon on May 1, after Lujan Grisham invoked the state's Riot Control Act to further restrict movement to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

More:Here are the latest coronavirus updates from San Juan County, Four Corners region

Gallup is in McKinley County, which leads the state in COVID-19 cases at 1,064. The neighboring Navajo Nation saw the number of positive cases rise to more than 2,000 this week.

Governor issued measures at request of local officials 

To address the situation, former Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney and recently sworn-in Mayor Louis Bonaguidi requested the governor to declare a state of emergency.

The May 1 executive order placed the city in a lockdown from noon on May 1 to noon on May 4.

Under the executive order, all businesses must close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the specified dates and all roads to the city are closed with an exception for residents and individuals who work in the city.

The order states vehicles may only be occupied by two people and residents should remain home unless for emergency travel that involves health, safety and welfare.

State police officers and the New Mexico National Guard had a checkpoint set up on U.S. Highway 491, an entry point to the city's northside.

A New Mexico State Police officer and a member of the U.S. Army National Guard stand on the off-ramp of Interstate 40 entering Gallup on Friday, May 1, 2020. The city is closed to all but  residents and essential employees after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham enacted the state's Riot Control Act in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Additional checkpoints were arranged on highways and exit ramps from Interstate 40.

Officers from the Gallup Police Department were observed patrolling the normally busy highway 491 corridor, where businesses such as Safeway, Auto Zone, Starbucks, McDonald's and Safeway are located.

Normally, a Friday night in Gallup means seeing countless headlights moving along U.S. Route 66.

The view from one of the city's overpasses serves as reassurance that the old highway still has meaning to the city, but not tonight.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.