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One New Mexico pueblo may have the country’s highest infection rate.

San Felipe Pueblo, set between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, last reported a total of 117 positive confirmed COVID-19 cases on April 24.

According to the 2010 Census, the pueblo has a population total of 2,194. If this count is used to calculate the infection rate, then San Felipe Pueblo has an infection rate of 5.32 percent.

Compare that to New York state, with a total of 308,314 tested positive as of May 1 and a population of 19,378,102. That works out to an infection rate of 1.6 percent.

Other population sources used to calculate Indian Country infection rates include tribal enrollment, village populations and Indian Health Service user numbers.

San Felipe Governor Anthony Ortiz wrote in a letter to community members that the pueblo is working with IHS, the New Mexico Health Department, the pueblo’s own health and wellness department, and the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center.

The pueblo has canceled its annual May 1 feast day. “You are encouraged to observe the Feast Day in your own homes with your families, but please be advised that it is not advisable to visit one another on this day,” Gov. Ortiz wrote.

He also reported that approximately 1,300 individuals have been tested, 34 recovered, 10 are hospitalized, and 24 are sheltering or isolating themselves at the Buffalo Thunder Resort, which is 50 minutes away.

The resort is owned and operated by the Pojoaque Pueblo. Last month, Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Joseph Talachy told the Santa Fe New Mexican the resort will serve as an isolation site for members of New Mexico pueblos and tribes referred by the state’s health department.

‘Crisis of the highest order’: Gallup institutes lockdown

In west New Mexico, Gallup went into lockdown Friday at 12 p.m., and all roads into the town are closed. Businesses in the city will be closed at 5 p.m. through 8 a.m. Only two people are allowed in each vehicle. It will expire Monday at 12 p.m.

Outgoing Mayor Jackie McKinney and new Mayor Louis Bonguidi, who was sworn in April 30, asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to lock down the city.

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

Gallup is a major truck stop on Interstate 40 and a border town to the Navajo Nation.


“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!”

Residents of the Navajo reservation travel to large border towns such as Gallup, Farmington, Holbrook and Flagstaff for groceries, medicines, or supplies. It’s also the first of the month for senior citizens receiving social security checks.

Penalties under the Riot Control Act include a misdemeanor, and if a second or subsequent offense is committed, the individual is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.

“The spread of this virus in McKinley County is frightful,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham, “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. A problem in one part of our state, with a virus this dangerous and this contagious, is a problem for our entire state.”

Gallup is part of McKinley County where there are 1,027 positive cases reported. It’s more than 30 percent of the state’s total positive COVID-19 cases. The county reported 207 cases in the last two days.

“Its infection trend has shown no sign of flattening,” according to the state. 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email:

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