NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – The increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation has prompted its officials to search for ways to prevent further spread of the virus. KRQE News 13 anchor Crystal Gutierrez spoke with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez about what they’re doing to keep their community safe and why testing is a crucial to curbing the virus.

McKinley County in New Mexico has the highest number of cases of the virus with a total of 641 as of Monday, May 4. While Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently allowed the relaxation of restrictions on non-essential businesses as part of her statewide health order, they do not apply to McKinley, San Juan, and Cibola Counties that are still facing increasing rates of COVID-19 cases.

President Nez explains that they are aggressively testing residents. As of Monday, May 4, there are 2,373 positive cases of COVID-19 with a total of 9,254 residents tested total.

“I really truely believe Crystal, that if it wasn’t for our citizens sheltering in place, you know hunkering down at their homes this would probably be a lot worse,” said President Nez. Nez also highlights some of the Nation’s creative solutions to prevent community spread of the virus such as their shelter-in-place order, their daily curfew, and their 57-hour weekend curfew.

“I think about 80% of our citizens have been adhering to the shelter-in-place order and the curfew,” said President Nez. “There are some that try to challenge the law and challenge authority, I mean it’s just like that in every part of this country, everywhere in the world, but our police officers out there enforce, writing citations,” said Nez.

While he has yet to get the most recent numbers for citations given out, he says that for the two previous weekend curfews, there have been about 300 citations given out to individuals who out and about and were not abiding by curfew orders. President Nez explains that these methods appear to be working as they are starting to see a flattening of the curve.

President Nez says that the Nation received donations including test kits that allowed many more people to be tested which increased both the number of positive cases and the total number of tested residents.