FEMA Makes On-Site Assessment of WAPA’s Sargassum Seaweed Problem on St. Croix

CHRISTIANSTED — Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 2 Administrator David Warrington arrived in the territory today to make an in-person assessment and get updates on the impact the heavy influx of Sargassum seaweed is having on the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority’s water production operations on St. Croix.

While water production and capacity has remained at almost normal levels, the joint operation between FEMA and other federal partners and Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) agencies and departments continue their contingency efforts to mitigate any adverse effects from the seaweed.

As the situation remains manageable, the joint federal and local team has also begun talking about longer-term, more permanent, solutions to avoid future incursions or impacts on water production from the annual migration of Sargassum seaweed into the territory’s waters.

FEMA Makes On-Site Assessment of WAPA's Sargassum Seaweed Problem on St. Croix

“As we continue to face the reality of climate change and its impact on places like the Virgin Islands, FEMA and the entire federal government are going to have to continue working closely with our partners in the Government of the Virgin Islands to innovate and find creative solutions for these new challenges that face us,” Administrator Warrington said. “While water production in St. Croix remains stable right now, our federal teams are using this time to work with the territory to develop plans not only for the short term provision of water but long-term solutions that set the territory and WAPA up for success in the future.”

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. thanked the federal agencies for their assistance.

“Our territory is one the many places most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, and I am grateful for the cooperation and support of our federal partners in our efforts to proactively develop a permanent solution to mitigating this annual nuisance,” the Governor said.

The team also is monitoring for any possible incursion of seaweed on St. Thomas-St. John water facilities, although that has remained relatively free of adverse impacts at this point.

The scope of the current federal declaration is limited to actions taken by the federal government at the request of the territory to protect the offshore water intake operations in Estate Richmond so it can continue operating at normal levels.

FEMA, experts from other federal agencies and the territory are working collaboratively on contingency plans that include discussion related to booming strategy, sargassum collection and removal while considering impacts to the environment.

Under the federal emergency declaration, actions taken by the federal government at the territory’s request will be subject to a 75 percent federal and 25 percent territory cost share.

Governor Bryan continues to advise St. Croix residents and businesses to conserve water as they can.

Decaying Sargassum creates hydrogen sulfide (H₂S), which is a colorless gas with a strong odor of rotten eggs that can cause wide range of health effects, including irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. The effects depend on how much hydrogen sulfide a person breathes, the concentration of H₂S, how long the person breathes it and the person’s general health. For more detailed information, visit the Department of Health webpage at doh.vi.gov.

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has clarified that while the current Sargassum State of Emergency is in effect Territory-wide, the price freeze currently in place for water products and services applies only to St. Croix.

For accurate and updated information regarding the WAPA water plant on St. Croix and the Sargassum State of Emergency, go to the Government of the Virgin Islands Joint Information Center at vi.gov/jic/.

FEMA Makes On-Site Assessment of WAPA's Sargassum Seaweed Problem on St. Croix

Bryan Taps Dionne Wells-Hedrington To Head Education

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Governor Albert Bryan has named the Virgin Islands Department of Education’s Chief Operations Officer, Dionne Wells-Hedrington, as his nominee to become the next Commissioner of Education.

Wells-Hedrington, PhD, is a lifelong educator who has served as a teacher, principal, interim superintendent and  insular superintendent of schools, and she is a resident of St. John.

Bryan Taps Dionne Wells-Hedrington To Head Education
Governor Albert Bryan Jr. (left) with Education Nominee Dionne Wells-Hedrington of St. John

Citing a number of things that have impacted the department, including ongoing maintenance issues and the sudden switch to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Bryan expressed his confidence in Dr. Wells-Hedrington to move the department forward.

“Throughout those challenges, over and over again, the Department of Education has risen,” the Governor said.

“Today I am happy to introduce to you today a new Commissioner of Education, one that has been at every single level of education of the Virgin Islands Department of Education,” Governor Bryan said. “I think today we have a commissioner that takes on a department with good experience, well-wrought education and a deep, deep passion for the children of the Virgin Islands.”

During the press conference with Governor Bryan to announce her nomination, Wells-Hedrington thanked the men and women who work for the Department of Education for their dedication to ensure that the children of the Territory receive a quality education.

Bryan Taps Dionne Wells-Hedrington To Head Education

“I am public school proud. I am a product of the public school system. I stand proudly before you all to pledge my commitment to the people of these Virgin Islands to build back the trust in public education,” Commissioner Nominee Wells-Hedrington said.

She also acknowledged that there is work to be done within the department, but she also expressed confidence in the employees of the Department of Education to meet the task ahead of them.

“I’m confident that as we continue to build the relationships between internal and external stakeholders, putting aside our personal differences and remembering why we are here, and that is to serve our children, then I am confident that VIDE will work toward reforming, rebuilding and rebranding public education in the Virgin Islands,” Wells-Hedrington said.

The commissioner nominee has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, a Master’s degree in Education Supervision and Instruction, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, according to Government House.

Wells-Hedrington’s nomination will next go before the Legislature of the Virgin Islands for approval.

Bryan Taps Dionne Wells-Hedrington To Head Education

For Those Falling Behind In Licensing Fees, DLCA Offers ‘Apply and Comply’

CHRISTIANSTED — DLCA says if you’re falling behind in keeping your licenses current — it’s better for you to come forward now and own up to the problem.

DLCA’s Operation “Apply and Comply” program offers businesses and people who have experienced any type of economic hardship a 70 percent reduction of penalty fees incurred for failing to renew their license in a timely manner.

The program also waives 70 percent of the penalty issued for operating without a business license.

“We have received positive feedback to Operation Apply and Comply,” Commissioner Richard T. Evangelista said“Over 60 establishments/persons have taken advantage of the program and obtained a current business licenseAs such, we have extended Operation Apply and Comply until August 31.”

DLCA Commissioner Evangelista advised businesses and individuals to take advantage of the program while it is in effect.

This fiscal year up to July 31, 2022, DLCA has issued 1,711 new licenses and 8,999 renewal licenses as compared to the entire last fiscal year 2021 when DLCA issued 1,022 new licenses and 7,458 renewal licenses. 

The commissioner noted that his staff has issued more licenses this year than the prior one. 

“They have professionally and efficiently accomplished this assignment for the third consecutive year since fiscal year 2020,” he said.

Businesses and individuals with expired business licenses or engaged in a business without a business license are encouraged to immediately visit the department’s website at www.dlca.vi.gov to either apply for or renew their business license. 

You may also contact us by using our main telephone lines at 340-713-3522 on St. Croix; 340-714-3522 on St. Thomas, and 340-474-2800 on St. John.

As Peak Season Approaches, NHC Watches 4 Tropical Waves, CSU Monitors Ocean Temperatures

MIAMI — The National Hurricane Center is monitoring four tropical waves in the Atlantic basin, including one in the western Caribbean.

No new tropical cyclones are expected during the next five days as the busiest period of the Atlantic hurricane season approaches.

There have been four occasions in the past 30 years when the Atlantic has had no named storms between July 3 and today, according to Philip Klotzbach, meteorologist with Colorado State University.

There have been three named systems in the Atlantic so far this year, with the next named storm to be Danielle.

Water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are on the high side, with the 30-day average between above-average and those seen during a hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season, according to Klotzbach.

The interaction of warm air and warm water spawns hurricanes, which is why they form over tropical waters. The rotation of the Earth makes them spin, according to NOAA.

When is hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.

When is the peak of hurricane season?
As Peak Season Approaches, NHC Watches 4 Tropical Waves, CSU Monitors Ocean Temperatures
What’s out there and where are they?
As Peak Season Approaches, NHC Watches 4 Tropical Waves, CSU Monitors Ocean Temperatures

Tropical wave 1: A new tropical wave has moved off the coast of the western Sahara northeast of Cape Verde. It’s moving west at 11 mph.

Tropical wave 2: A tropical wave is located northwest of Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic. It’s moving west at 17 mph.

Tropical wave 3: Another tropical wave is located in the central Atlantic east of the British Virgin Islands. It’s moving west at 15 mph.

Tropical wave 4: A tropical wave in the western Caribbean extends from eastern Honduras and Nicaragua to Costa Rica and into the eastern Pacific. It’s moving west at 19 mph.

As Peak Season Approaches, NHC Watches 4 Tropical Waves, CSU Monitors Ocean Temperatures

Jilted Lover Breaks In Bedroom Window, Beats Boyfriend With Broomstick and Steals His Gucci Slippers

CHRISTIANSTED — A jilted lover broke into an Orange Grove bedroom window after midnight, hit the woman’s current boyfriend in the head with a broomstick and then stole his Gucci slippers as he was leaving, authorities said.

Vernon Sackey Jr., 23, was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree burglary-domestic violence, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.  

An adult female was lying in her bed speaking to her friend when she heard someone tampering with her bedroom window at 12:59 a.m. on Sunday July 31, 2022, according to the VIPD. 

Jilted Lover Breaks In Bedroom Window, Beats Boyfriend With Broomstick and Steals His Gucci Slippers
VIPD mugshot of Vernon “Pappy” Sackey, Jr. 23, of St. Croix.

She then observed her former acquaintance, Vernon Sackey Jr., pulled out several louvers from the southern bedroom window, and entered the room, police said.  She then ran into her little brother’s bedroom and locked the door. 

“While she was inside the bedroom, Mr. Sackey attacked her male friend and a fight ensued,” VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said. “Mr. Sackey then grabbed a broomstick, struck the victim in the head, and took the victims’ Gucci slippers and fled the scene.”   

Police issued a wanted poster on Sackey on Sunday and he voluntarily surrendered to detectives with the Criminal Investigation Bureau the next day, according to Dratte.

No bail was set for Sackey as per the territory’s domestic violence laws. He was remanded to custody of the Bureau of Corrections at the John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility pending an advice-of-rights hearing. 

Panama Teachers End Long Strike That Set Off Wider Protests

PANAMA CITY — Panama’s teachers will return to the classroom today after a month-long strike supported by a number of other sectors that blocked commerce and snarled the capital with traffic over the high cost of living and government corruption.

The teacher walkout started what became the largest social protest that Panama had seen in years. Educators said they were fed up with the soaring prices for gasoline, food and medicine and wanted more investment in education.

Panama Teachers End Long Strike That Set Off Wider Protests
Members of the Teachers Union hold a general assembly as they end their nationwide strike to protest inflation outside the Republica de Venezuela school in Panama City, Monday, August 1, 2022. Teachers continue to negotiate with the government over other issues. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

The teachers were eventually joined by construction workers and Indigenous groups, as well as frustrated average Panamanians. They erected highway roadblocks that froze supply routes and caused some shortages.

After more than a week of dialogue mediated by the Roman Catholic Church, the government agreed to hold prices on dozens of basic consumer products and a lower cost for gasoline.

Panama Teachers End Long Strike That Set Off Wider Protests

The government said it would create mechanisms for the direct purchase of medicines to avoid shortages plaguing public hospitals and promised to set maximum prices for 150 medicines.

The dialogue between protest groups and the government was scheduled to resume tomorrow. Several pending demands remain, including reducing the cost of electricity, increasing government transparency and reducing government corruption.

Before announcing the end to their strike yesterday, teachers held a big rally in the capital.

Panama Teachers End Long Strike That Set Off Wider Protests

USVI Cannabis Group To Offer Cannabis Career Training, Scholarships

The USVI Cannabis Association says it will partner with Educapital Foundation to offer $1 Million in scholarships for Cannabis Career Training.

A $1 Million Scholarship fund will provide scholarships for 1,000 students to receive training in the adult-use Cannabis industry.

Each Scholarship award winner will receive $1,000 towards their education. In addition, 50 graduates will be selected to receive $10,000 in start-up capital to launch their cannabis business upon graduation, a foundation spokesperson said.

“If we want the next generation of leaders to be able to build wealth, we believe education, combined with access to capital is the solution.” a spokesperson for the foundation said. “It’s important for us to give students access to the training that they need, without the burden of student loan debt.”

USVI Cannabis Group To Offer Cannabis Career Training, Scholarships

“We are incredibly grateful to deliver on our mission; to eliminate poverty through education.”

The scholarship has open enrollment, and applications are being accepted via the website www.Edu-capital.org. Applicants must be at least 18 years or older to apply.

Access to education is more critical now than it has ever been. Unfortunately, too many talented young people have found their pathway strewn with barriers or even blocked. Educapital Foundation is working to close that gap, and break down systemic barriers to success.

For more information, visit Educapital Foundation at www.edu-capital.org

Bryan Details Plans To Move Health Care Forward In The USVI

CHRISTIANSTED — During Monday’s weekly Government House briefing, Governor Albert Bryan highlighted a number of major announcements that are part of the government’s  “Healthier Horizons” initiative to significantly improve health care for Virgin Islanders through a number of efforts to improve patient access, how health care is delivered, and technological innovations.

“Last week was very illustrative of the Bryan-Roach Administration’s Healthier Horizons agenda. We started the week with check presentations for $10 million dollars to both the territory’s hospitals, which will help them not only modernize their medi-tech systems for medical coding and patient tracking but will also help them implement a recruitment and retention program for medical staff,” Governor Bryan said.

Bryan Details Plans To Move Health Care Forward In The USVI

The Governor also made note of last week’s Digital Health Summit, which brought together stakeholders throughout the territory and industry experts from around the world with the goal of bringing uniformity and standardization to health information technology among public and private health providers.

The government also held a free Diabetes Health and Wellness Fair that provided free diabetes and blood pressure screenings, counseling with diabetes specialists and eye and foot exams. The Health and Wellness Fair was put together by the Virgin Islands Diabetes Center of Excellence, which was funded in part by a $1 million grant from the Office of the Governor.

Additionally, Governor Bryan’s proposed Behavioral Health Act was approved by the Senate Health Committee last week. It is a comprehensive piece of legislation that reflects the work and consensus of many stakeholders, and Governor Bryan publicly thanked Senator Novelle Francis Jr. for being such a persistent champion for the measure, and for mental health overall.

Also last week, the government unveiled to the public plans for the new Charles Harwood Medical Complex in St. Croix, which Governor Bryan said will be unlike anything seen here in the territory and is just one of many facilities that will be part of the healthcare infrastructure in the Territory.

The territory also received full approval from FEMA for the complete rebuild of the Roy Lester Schneider hospital on St. Thomas.

On Sunday, the Governor toured the new dialysis center in the Sunny Isles Annex, which also was made possible by a $1 million grant from the Office of the Governor. The dialysis center will give patients on St. Croix another option for their dialysis care and will help prevent the need to evacuate those patients in the event that a storm damages the dialysis centers on St. Croix.

This week, the Department of Health is hosting the Virgin Islands Health Disparities Leadership Conference at the Carambola Beach Resort on St. Croix from August 1-4. 

“All these initiatives along with others are a part of our Administration’s continued work to transform healthcare in the territory and to encourage Virgin Islanders to lead healthier lifestyles.  Our Walk out Wednesday activities on all three islands have been a hit and are growing in popularity by the week,” Governor Bryan said. “We encourage everyone to visit ourbestlifeusvi.com for more information or to register for the walk and to get your free t-shirt.”

Bryan Details Plans To Move Health Care Forward In The USVI

Monkeypox health advisory

During the weekly Government House briefing on Monday, July 18, Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar announced advisories for residents about monkeypox, a rare virus that is like smallpox but is milder and rarely fatal.

While no cases of monkeypox have been reported in the Territory, the World Health Organization has declared the current monkeypox outbreak as a global emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking the cases across the world and planning for a national, coordinated response.

As of July 29, 2022, the CDC reported 22,485 global cases of which the majority are in countries that have not historically reported monkeypox; there are 5,189 cases in the nation with 14 cases in Puerto Rico.

For suspected cases, the V.I. Department of Health (DOH) will send diagnostic samples to reference laboratories and confer with the CDC’s Monkeypox Division for access to medical countermeasure treatment and vaccine prevention. DOH’s Immunization Division has secured 100 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for outbreak prevention within the territory and additional doses are available to order today.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and a rash with pimples or blisters. It is spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimated physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex. The virus can also be spread during pregnancy through the placenta.

If you have symptoms, please contact a healthcare provider immediately, and all suspected cases should be reported immediately to the DOH Epidemiology Division via the Epi 1 Infectious Diseases Notification form and Territorial Infectious Diseases Specialist.

Governor, Lt. Governor traveling to BVI

During Monday’s weekly briefing, the Governor also announced that he and Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach are traveling to the British Virgin Islands to meet with Premier Natalio Wheatley on Monday and Tuesday.

“The Lieutenant Governor and I will be out of the territory briefly, as we travel to Tortola for our first official meeting with the new Premier of the British Virgin Islands the Honorable Natalio Wheatley, and we will discuss matters of mutual interest for our territories,” Governor Bryan said. “Commissioner Bosede Bruce will serve as acting-governor until we return to the territory, Tuesday afternoon.”

Governor’s Cup Bike Ride

The Virgin Islands Cycling Federation will host the Governor’s Cup Championship Cycling Race on August 7 on St. Croix. The race is sponsored by the Office of the Governor and the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation.

The race begins at 7 a.m. from Sally’s Fancy, and there will be cash prizes for the winners in each category of the race as well as mid-race cash prizes for the first riders to arrive at designated locations.

For more information contact David Morales at 340-643-6420.

COVID-19 cases as of August 1

  • 11.3 percent seven-day positivity rate
  • Currently tracking 207 active cases
  • 120 deaths
  • There are 2 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
  • There are 6 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas. 

Dr. Hunte-Ceasar also reminded residents that schedules for free vaccinations and testing have changed as of July 1.

COVID-19 vaccinations

All vaccinations will take place as a regular part of the Department of Health’s clinic schedules. 

The dates and times for vaccinations are: 

COVID-19 Testing

The schedule is as follows:

St. Croix – Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Charles Harwood Memorial parking lot

St. Thomas – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday – 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Schneider Regional Medical Center loading dock

St. John – Wednesday from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. 

More COVID-19 Information

Anyone who thinks they may have contracted COVID-19 can call the Epidemiology hotline at 340-712-6299 (STX) or 340-776-1519 (STT-STJ). For more information, visit covid19usvi.com.

Help Police Find Missing Minor J’Shante Nisbett on St. Thomas

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Police need your help on St. Thomas to find a minor who has been missing since Sunday.

J’Shante Nisbett, 16, was last seen on St. Thomas at about 8:30 p.m. at her residence, the Virgin Islands Police Department said on Twitter.

Nisbett is a black female with brown eyes, black hair, a dark complexion and a slim build. She stands 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighs about 116 pounds.

The minor was last seen wearing a blue jeans short pants and tank top.

If seen J’Shante, please call 911 or Juvenile Bureau Detective C. Brooks and Detective T. Morton at (340) 715-5541.

Help Police Find Missing Minor J'Shante Nisbett on St. Thomas

Hundreds Turn Out For Dialysis Clinic at the Sunny Isle Annex

CHRISTIANSTED — About 240 people attended a dialysis clinic construction progress event put on by the Virgin Islands Healthcare Foundation this weekend.

Hundreds Turn Out For Dialysis Clinic at the Sunny Isle Annex

The clinic was held at the foundation’s location in the Sunny Isle Annex on Sunday,

Attendees included Governor Albert Bryan Jr, 34th Legislature Vice President Novelle Francis Jr, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion, Department of Labor Commissioner Gary Molloy, as well as patients and caregivers.

Hundreds Turn Out For Dialysis Clinic at the Sunny Isle Annex

Remarks were also given by Aminah Saleem (VIHCF Secretary), Dr. Jan Tawakol (VIHCF Board President), Dr. Tasnim Khan (VICHF Dialysis Clinic Medical Director) and Angel Rivera (Patient Support Group Member).

Governor Bryan, speaking at the COVID-19 press conference this afternoon, said that 240 people showed up for the clinic over the course of the day on Sunday.