Happy Tuesday to you all! Today, I wanted to take a moment to update you on the COVID-19 situation in the territory. Not much has changed as far as regulations go and there has been no mention of closing down again. But, just like everywhere else, numbers are climbing for the USVI on the COVID front. So, I wanted to take a moment to make sure we are all up to date with info here on the site 🙂
In the Governor’s weekly press briefing yesterday, Governor Bryan and Dr. Hunt from the Department of Health both showed growing concern for the continual rising number of new positive COVID-19 cases in the territory that have resulted in a spike in both hospitalizations and unfortunate casualties from the virus.
Currently, there are 269 active cases in the territory and a record setting 16 of those are on St. John. That may not seem like a high number to you, but for our little island it is, I believe, the most active we have been in this game since the beginning of the whole mess! The positivity rate for the territory is down, however, and is currently sitting at 2.76 per cent. Which is a strong improvement from the 4.78% we reported a few weeks ago.
However, within this current surge, we have lost 21 Virgin Islanders. As of late July, 33 individuals had passed with COVID-related deaths during the first sixteen months of this pandemic. Today, one month later, the count in the territory is 54. I would like to take a moment here to honor the passing of those individuals and to also send regards and prayers to their friends and families who are recovering from their loss. As you know, the Virgin Islands community is VERY close knit. The loss of twenty one community members in one month is a great devastation.
Currently, there are five patients in the hospital on St. Croix and 19 on St. Thomas. The current vaccination rate in the territory is 47.3% and the goal is another 22.7% in order to reach herd immunity, according to Dr. Hunt of the Department of Health.
Ok, so, as I mentioned, these numbers are pretty grim…They seem to be getting that way everywhere as well though. Florida reported 27,000 new cases in one day last week. Oregon, a state that has been holding up the lower end in positivity rates since the beginning of this, registered 2,493 new cases on Friday. The numbers are on the rise and this current wave is not projected to cap out until the end of September.
However, even though this new variant seems to be creeping through the protocols and regulations set in the territory that were extremely effective during the last wave (effective enough to keep us open and keep cases down anyway!) the Governor made no mention yesterday about changing any additional policies or a possible closure of the territory.
So, what’s current with the COVID-19 territory regulations and travel procedures?
First, travel protocols still stand very similarly to what they have been with the exception of the antibodies test. An antibodies test is no longer accepted as a viable way to get into the USVI. Unless you were vaccinated IN the territory (I’ll get to that in a second), you will need a negative COVID-19 test taken within five days of commencement of travel in order to be cleared for travel and entry to the USVI.
- Get your COVID test…An antigen (rapid) test or a molecular (PCR, viral or nucleic acid amplification) test will both work. When scheduling your test, please make sure with the provider that they fall under one of these specific categories. If you have had COVID but are cleared for travel/out of quarantine, documentation of recovery in the past three months paired with the COVID test within five days of travel will work together to gain entry (I would imagine you may want to call after submitting for this one!).
- Upload your information into the USVI Travel Portal as soon as you get your results! You’ll want to try to give a 48 hour window between departure and uploading the results in order for the portal to process your information and give you the green light for vacation! If you are having trouble with receiving the green QR code after the 48 hours has passed, email the Department of Tourism.
Ok, so, I mentioned the USVI vaccination exception. Currently, anyone who was fully vaccinated in the USVI may be eligible for travel clearance into the territory with their proof of vaccination alone.
I want to stop you before you wonder why your vaccine from elsewhere won’t work (that HAS been in A LOT of the comments!). I believe it is simply a matter of record matching for now. The USVI has their own records for everyone who has been fully vaccinated in the territory. They do not, say, have record to match your vaccination from New York or Iowa. With vaccination cards so easy to duplicate, I do not fault the departments of health and tourism for keeping to what they can check in the initial phase of the fully vaccinated traveler allowance.
However, I think this is a step in the right direction towards opening that to those who have been vaccinated elsewhere eventually. This has all been a slow moving process with figuring it out as we go. So, fingers crossed this will be open to those who have been vaccinated anywhere soon!
If you have been fully vaccinated in the USVI, go to the Polaris Key to register your vaccination and get the “vax pass” for travel. Once your vaccination has been approved, you can go to the Travel Portal to upload your pass for your next trip back to the territory. I would advise uploading your vaccination ASAP so it is approved and ready the next time you travel.
Ok, on to regulations.
Masks. They’re staying.
In the taxi, at the airport, on the ferry, in public spaces (Yes, Mongoose and Wharfside.), when you are anywhere but in your seat at a restaurant or bar, in all businesses (shops, groceries, rental car agencies, the ferry port, etc.). Basically, everywhere but at the beach or on the trail, mask up. Trust me when I say, this has not been stopping anyone from enjoying an amazing time on island! I get messages DAILYU from readers who have just returned and had an incredible vacation. It’s actually starting to slow down a bit as well, giving those who are still working through the off season a little bit of a breath and more time to chat with their patrons at the bar 🙂
Bars and Restaurants
Last call is 11PM and everyone needs to be out by midnight. Mask up unless you are seated at your table or the bar. No counter service at the bar for patrons who do not have a seat. Distance of four feet between bar seats and tables will be regulated by the establishment. Please use your kindest judgment and be nice to the staffers who are asking you to follow the regulations. They don’t make the rules but they do have to enforce them. Don’t shoot the messenger and all of that.
Mask up before entering and remove it after exiting. Remember, as much as a pain as it is to you, these folks are working eight-ten hour days in them. We are ALL over the mask wearing. But, it has proven effective and that’s still the law. And these residents who are likely working for minimum wage are tasked with leading by example and enforcing it upon the tough cookies out there (and there are lots!). Please keep all of these things in the back of your mind while enjoying your time at local businesses 🙂
Currently, there is a curfew on the beaches on weekends and holidays. So, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and, this week (Labor Day), Monday, the beaches close at 4PM. A lot of people don’t understand the curfew in one of the safest places to be! Outdoors, in nature, plenty of space, etc. The beaches in the territory are also a place of gatherings and celebrations…Lots of locals and residents, eating and drinking and partying together. It’s great! But there isn’t enough enforcement to make sure these gatherings are being “safe” and once the drinking starts they can predictably become “super spreaders.” So, get your late day beach time in on the weekdays and find a different sunset perch on the weekends for now. The curfew will be addressed in the press conference next week as far as whether it is staying or will be lifted after the holiday weekend.
Again, St. John IS OPEN. Bars, beaches, shops, trails and restaurants are all ready for you to come and enjoy! At present, there has been no chatter about closing the territory again. But I will, as always, keep you up to date as the conversation evolves.
I think that’s all for today as far as the VI COVID update goes, but I want to take a moment to get personal…
I landed in Oregon on Wednesday to visit my best friend, my sister and my nephew. Conveniently for me, they live within 15 minutes of each other! On Sunday of last week, I had started to get a weird kind of sinus scratch in the back of my throat. No big deal…We are in the states in a dry climate (comparably) and I generally get something along those lines upon landing here. By the time we got here on Wednesday night, I was SO tired…and the sneezing fits and stuffy nose had set in. Again, just a long travel day and a cold, right?
Well, prior to seeing my six year old nephew on Thursday, I had planned to take a COVID test to make sure I was keeping him safe because we HAD been traveling. The take home test was positive and we got those results just as my symptoms started to escalate. I immediately scheduled a PCR test at a local urgent care. By the time I received those results the next day, I was officially laid up in bed.
Let’s say this…I’m fully vaccinated. So is everyone else I have come into contact with, specifically, my boyfriend who I have been traveling with. He has now tested negative at three staggered times following my test results. Better safe than sorry? So, I can speculate about the effectiveness of my vaccination, my viral load, my immune system….The list goes on. But, anxiety filled thoughts that kept going through my head while I did the whole delirious sleeping thing for days was, “Am I going to need medical care?” and “Did I get someone I love sick?”
The answer to both of those questions was, luckily, no. I survived and am on the up and up with a dwindling fever at present. But my mind goes back over and over again to “What if I had seen my un-vaccinated nephew without testing?”
So, not to sound preachy, taking the shot is everyone’s choice. I’m not here to serve that up to ANYONE or to get political or sciencey or whatever. But, I will say this, whether you are vaccinated or not, take precautions with this one. I’m a very careful person with all of this despite continuing to live my life…I currently have about six masks, three packs of anti-bacterial wipes and four bottles of hand sanitizer in my backpack 🙂 But, I still got it…And could have easily infected someone I care about. It’s all a real mind game, isn’t it?
The new strain, according to my health care provider, is presenting more as a common cold and not with the telltale COVID signs that we have been made wary of. I didn’t have a fever until day day four of my symptoms. No cough until day six. And by that time I was past being super contagious! The common cold signs, this time of year, get tricky because as the temperature changes, everyone gets sniffly! So, if you are seeing a vulnerable individual, consider taking a test first in order to be sure that you aren’t passing something along that they may not recover from. At home tests are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to ensure you are being safe. Walgreens, CVS and Amazon all have a variety of them available although you may need to shop around a bit. Finding them in stock has proved tough!
Take your vitamin C and your Zinc and get those immune systems boosted. Take care of yourself and the people you love. And stay safe out there everybody 🙂