Navajo Nation: 166 new cases and two more deaths, as New Governor locks down Gallup under Riot Control Act

Disclaimer: Censored News is sharing the following information from public officials, but this should not appear as an endorsement of the Riot Control Act, presence of U.S. Homeland Security on the Navajo Nation or an endorsement of the involvement of outside entities in coronavirus sampling and testing of Navajos, such as universities and research centers.

Article by Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photos by Navajo President’s Office

WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation reported 166 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as the bordertown of Gallup, New Mexico, locked down during the rapid spread of coronavirus.

On Friday, both actor Sean Penn and U.S. Homeland Security arrived on the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation reported two new deaths and a total of 73 deaths, with a total of 2,307 cases as the Riot Control Act was invoked in Gallup. In Gallup area, there are more than 1,000 cases.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, in response to an emergency request from the mayor of Gallup, invoked the state’s Riot Control Act. The authorizing executive order can be found here. Effective at 12 p.m., May 1, all roads into Gallup are closed. Businesses in the city of Gallup will close from 5 p.m. through 8 a.m. Vehicles may only have a maximum of two individuals. Residents of the city should remain at home except for emergency outings and those essential for health, safety and welfare.

Actor Sean Penn and his disaster relief organization, Core Response, visited the Navajo Nation on Friday and assisted with providing supplies and testing to the Navajo Nation.

“A big thank you to actor Sean Penn and his organization Core Response coming to the Nazlini, Arizona, today to collaborate and help the Navajo people with resources to increase testing and to help fight COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation! We look forward to working together. Ahe’hee’,” Navajo President Jonathan Nez said.

Fresh food delivered by Navajo President's Office
Fresh food delivered by Navajo President’s Office

President Nez said Penn, Johns Hopkins University, and other organizations were in Nazlini to assist with testing and to help distribute food and supplies. He estimated that they helped out 100-150 families in Nazlini on Friday. Penn said his organization has brought 45,000 COVID-19 tests to the Los Angeles, California and is looking to expand nationwide. In regards to the Navajo Nation, he said Core Response would follow Johns Hopkins’ lead and would assist where his organization is needed, ABC News reported.

New Mexico Gov. Grisham said Gallup city police and McKinley County sheriff’s department will partner with New Mexico State Police and Department of Transportation to enforce the emergency order and road closures. The New Mexico National Guard will also provide support to this effort in a non-law enforcement capacity.

Both outgoing Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney and new Mayor Louis Bonaguidi, who was sworn into office 2:30 p.m., April 30, requested the governor declare a state of emergency under the Riot Control Act, 12-10-16 to 12-10-21 NMSA 1978. Those mayoral letters can be found here and here.

Gov. Grisham said that any state of emergency proclaimed under the Riot Control Act, along with any restrictions imposed for control of that emergency, terminates automatically at noon on the third day after it becomes effective unless sooner terminated by proclamation of the governor. The Gallup emergency is effective immediately and will expire at noon on Monday, May 4.

The Riot Control Act authorizes the governor to, for the temporary existence of a state of emergency, prohibit persons being on public streets and the use of certain streets and highways, among other broad emergency restrictions.

Gov. Grisham said because of the extreme heightened risk of transmission in the northwestern region of the state, McKinley County – along with neighboring San Juan and Cibola counties – remain subject to the Secretary of Health’s public health order of April 11. Moderate easings incorporated in the modified public health order effective Friday, May 1, do not apply in those counties.

“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,” said Mayor Bonaguidi. “However, the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Gallup is a crisis of the highest order. Immediate action is necessary.”

Navajo President's Office Food Delivery
Navajo President’s Office Food Delivery

“We fully support the proactive measures implemented by Governor Lujan Grisham, at the request of the City of Gallup,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “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. Thank you to the Governor for her leadership and decisive actions. We urge everyone to stay home, stay safe, and save lives!”

Navajo President’s Office Statements: Navajo Nation surge of cases continues

The Navajo President’s Office said 2,307 confirmed positive cases on the Navajo Nation include the following counties: McKinley County, NM: 617; Apache County, AZ: 538; Navajo County, AZ: 513; Coconino County, AZ: 286; San Juan County, NM: 245; San Juan County, UT: 42; Socorro County, NM: 23; Cibola County, NM: 22; Sandoval County, NM: 21“The Navajo Nation continues to move up the curve on the number of positive cases and deaths. Last week, we began to see a slight flattening of the curve, but so many people continue to travel to border towns and now we’re seeing spikes in new cases again. We, as citizens of the Navajo Nation, need to do a better job and hold one another accountable. As leaders, we send a message of hope, resilience, and strength to our Navajo citizens, because we believe that we will overcome this pandemic together and stronger. We also continue for pray for all of the families that become victims of the virus,” said President Nez.

He added, “We are seeing more positive cases because there is a lot more testing being conducted in each county. Those who test positive will soon be able to isolate themselves at one of the Alternative Care Sites and this will help to prevent the spread among families and communities. Let’s be strong and keep fighting together by staying home and avoiding hotshot areas.”

President Nez commends new Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who enacted temporary restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Gallup, N.M. The Gallup lockdown began on Friday at 12:00 p.m. and will remain in effect until Monday at 12:00 p.m. President Nez supports the temporary restrictions and is hopeful that it will help to prevent Navajo people from traveling to the border town.

During “Operation First of the Month” on Friday, Division of Economic Development Executive Director JT Willie led another successful effort to provide elders with a safe shopping experience at eight Bashas’ Diné Market locations on the Navajo Nation. Several Nez-Lizer Division Directors and staff members were stationed at each location to sanitize carts, distribute masks and gloves to elders, and distribute COVID-19 prevention information.

The Nez-Lizer Administration also distributed food, water, masks, and cleaning and hygiene items to 428 families in the communities of Teesto, Greasewood Springs, and Nazlini, Ariz. Precautions were taken as they placed the items in vehicles with no direct contact with the residents. Items were also delivered to elderly and high-risk residents who were unable to pick-up the items on their own.

The Navajo Nation’s 57-hour weekend curfew is in effect, requiring all residents to remain home with the exception of essential workers, including first responders, and in cases of emergencies. The Navajo Police will setup road checkpoints and issue citations to curfew violators as well.

“We don’t want any more of our people getting the virus and we don’t want any more grieving families. Please think of others, think of the families who have lost their sons, daughters, parents, and grandparents to COVID-19. Health experts tell us that the best prevention is staying home, washing our hands, and disinfecting surfaces in common areas. This means that prevention is up to us and it is an individual responsibility to protect our families and communities,” said Vice President Lizer.



Navajo President’s Office Statement

Today, the Nez-Lizer team distributed food, bottled water, hygiene products, and other essential items to over 400 high-risk and elderly Navajo people in the communities of Teesto, Greasewood Springs, and Nazlini, Arizona. Precautions were taken as President Nez, CHR’s, NDOT, Winslow Indian Health Care Center, chapter officials, and other staff loaded the items into vehicles with no direct contact with residents.

The items distributed will help many Navajo families that reside in remote areas, especially during this weekend’s 57-hour curfew. The team also welcomed actor Sean Penn to the community of Nazlini, along with members of the CORE Response organization that he founded several years ago. CORE Response is looking to partner with President Nez to provide more resources for COVID-19 testing and to assist with “contact tracing” with the help of John Hopkins University.

President Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer appreciate everyone who assisted and contributed items to this great cause. They continue to pray each day for all of the Navajo people, health care workers, and first responders. Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives! Ahe’hee.’

Below: The US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA established alternative sites to quarantine coronavirus patients in gyms and community centers in the bordertown of Gallup, NM, and on the Navajo Nation in Shiprock, NM, and Chinle, Ariz.

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