FREDERIKSTED — The Virgin Islands National Guard said it is working with the Virgin Islands government and its federal partners to convert the 210th Regional Training Institute at its Estate Bethlehem compound to an Alternate Care Facility (ACF) to house COVID-19 patients.
Governor Albert Bryan, Jr., Brigadier General Kodjo Knox-Limbacker, the Adjutant General of the Virgin Islands National Guard, and Colonel Daniel Hibner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District Commander, held a press conference at the 210th RTI dining facility on Tuesday.
The press conference was held to discuss efforts to convert a portion of the institute into an Alternate Care Facility to treat acute COVID-19 patients.
“We have a team of professionals from the Corps of Engineers dedicated to converting these barracks into a treatment facility as quickly as possible in order to meet needs of the peak demand,” said Hibner.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began their assessments to the RTI facility in March 2020, as part of a National effort to evaluate sites to serve as ACF during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brig. Gen. Knox-Limbacker signed the supplemental lease agreement for the 210th RTI on April 17 that calls for the build-out to be completed by May 5. Once converted, the ACF will have a 46-bed capacity, designated for COVID-19 patients only.
“The safety of our servicemen and women, DoD employees, contract workers, retirees, and families are our utmost priority and will not interfere with the Department of Health’s COVID-19 operations,” Knox-Limbacker said. “This is now the third requirement we are going to support. The conversion of the RTI facility was the most feasible choice in becoming an alternate care facility to support the Department of Health in their efforts with the COVID-19.”
As part of an approved FEMA mission assignment, VING guardsmen have been on orders since April 2, supporting the Department of Health and local agencies with screening incoming passengers at the airports and conducting public safety announcements at local beaches.
Also, on St. Thomas, constructions are underway to add 50 beds to the Schneider Regional Medical Center with negative-pressure rooms. The ACF construction build-out is a joint responsibility of the local and federal governments, with the federal government providing 75 percent of the necessary funding.
“We are very optimistic about this project,” Justa Encarnacion, Commissioner of the V.I. Department of Health, said. “Today’s tour allowed us to ensure the community’s health care needs will be met. This facility will serve as an extra measure to increase capacity in our COVID-19 response efforts.”
For more information on COVID-19, please visit the USVI Department of Health’s website, doh.vi.gov/coronavirus or text COVID19USVI to 888777.