PUEBLO OF LAGUNA, N.M. (KRQE) – The state has no jurisdiction over sovereign land, like pueblos and the Navajo Nation, and that goes for enforcing the public health order. At least one casino is working with the state to help battle the virus.

A Route 66 spokesperson said officials will let the state know if it has any COVID-related problems.

“We understand that this applies to the entire state and all the people who live here and so we have no interest in keeping the information secret or anything like that,” Skip Sayre with Route 66 Casino explained.

The casino said it communicates with the Pueblo and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office once a week to stay updated on the virus. Sayre said officials also periodically provide information about casino COVID-19 case numbers and testing.

The Emergency Operations Command at the Pueblo of Laguna tests 10% of the casino employees once a week. He said they’ve had eight positive cases among employees since reopening June 24.

“We’ve been able to track, as I said, each one of those down, determined that the infection was obtained from outside of the business,” Sayre stated. He said if they were to have an outbreak, they’d tell the state so they could get a rapid response.

The New Mexico Department of Health released the following statement Wednesday evening regarding testing on tribal lands:

As sovereign nations, Tribal leaders act as the Public Health Authority for their Tribal communities to determine the level of assistance, if any, they would like from the state or other agencies (IHS, Tribal Epidemiology Centers) for the COVID-19 Epidemiology response. As individual nations, each Tribe does it a little differently. The New Mexico Department of Health American Indian COVID-19 Epidemiology Team contacts each Tribe when they have their first case to let them know of their case(s) and to offer assistance. Tribal leadership has delineated what assistance they would like for case investigations, case monitoring, contact tracing, and contact monitoring. From this feedback, the Dept of Health has developed a protocol laying out how to handle cases for each Tribe based, again, on what Tribal leadership has decided is best for their community. The protocol is fluid and can change at the request of Tribal leadership.

Regardless, of the amount of assistance the Tribe has requested from the DOH AI COVID-19 Epidemiology team, we remain in constant contact with Tribal POCs to let them know of their new COVID cases and provide technical assistance as wanted.

COVID-19 testing is available on tribal lands through IHS or tribal clinics. DOH supports testing through testing clinics at the request of the Tribes to handle larger testing needs. Test results from Tribal Health Clinics, IHS, laboratories, and hospitals are reported to the Dept of Health. Information on positive cases residing on Tribal lands are then funneled back to the tribe by the AI COVID-19 Epi Team.

The State of New Mexico does not have authority over tribal casinos and we provide technical guidance and assistance as requested by the Tribes.

KRQE News 13 also reached out to other metro-area casinos including Isleta and Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel to ask about their testing but have not heard back. Sandia Casino is still closed.

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