April 12 (UPI) -- The number of positive tests for COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation jumped this weekend as the tribal president and vice president remained in self-quarantine after exposure to a public safety officer whose test showed presence of the virus.
The death toll related to the coronavirus on the reservation has reached 24, up two from Friday, officials said.
As of late Saturday, the total of positive tests reached 698, an increase of 101 positives from a day earlier, according to the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service.
The agencies' report noted that 2,760 people tested negative. In all, 3.5 percent of those tested have been positive for the virus.
Navajo County, Ariz., led the eight counties in three states with 252 positive cases, followed by Coconino County, Ariz., with 150.
Some 175,000 people live on the reservation, which overlaps the state boundaries of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. About 40 percent of residents have no access to running water, which makes hand washing and intense hygiene difficult.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer said the number of positive results is expected to rise this week, in part because rapid testing kits supplied by Abbott Laboratories are expected to arrive within a few days at the Navajo area Indian Health Service and tribally operated health care centers.
"Quicker test results will likely result in even higher numbers of positive cases, but it will help to identify those who have the virus and begin to mitigate the cases much quicker," Nez said.
Nez thanked those who are complying with a weekend-long curfew on the reservation, and offered praise for healthcare workers and first responders.
"We know it is not easy, but we are with you and we are praying for you every day," he said Saturday.
Lizer added, "Yes, the numbers are growing, but many people are also testing negative for the virus and many are recovering, as well. We will beat COVID-19 together, but we will beat it quicker if we stay home as much as possible."