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Bryan’s COVID-19 Talk: 16 New Limetree Bay Refinery Workers Have Virus, Schools Won’t Open Until Sept. 8

CHRISTIANSTED — During his COVID-19 update today, Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. said he is delaying the reopening of the territory’s schools until at least September 8 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge in the Virgin Islands.

Bryan also said that the outbreak at Limetree Bay Refinery on St. Croix continues and that the government was informed just prior to his update of an additional 16 positive cases of COVID-19 at the refinery.

The governor said that opening schools on August 10 would require 100 percent online learning, which is less than optimal, and that there are three primary benefits of delaying the start of school until at least September 8:

“This is an active conversation happening stateside and locally as every school district in the country is debating the safest way to proceed with the reopening of schools during the pandemic surge without compromising the education of our children or their health and the health of the school faculty,” Bryan said. “The Department of Education has drafted its school reopening plan that complies with the Department of Health and CDC guidelines issued last week. Public discussions of that plan will start this week as they move to gather stakeholder input.”

Limetree Bay Refinery

Limetree Bay Refinery and the Virgin Islands Department of Health have significantly increased testing contract workers at the refinery and ramped up contact-tracing to test everyone who may have come into contact with the COVID-positive individuals.

These measures are in addition to a moratorium on more contract workers traveling to the territory, temperature scans at the gates and a two-week restriction on the Man Camp and contract workers.

Bryan said he has a follow-up meeting scheduled with Limetree management to determine what further measures will be taken. He gave a breakdown of the testing of Limetree workers:

“Besides Limetree, there have been a few isolated incidents on all three islands of community transmission. As a result, from time to time we have ordered the closure of a public office or a private business out of an abundance of caution to contain the spread of the virus while we conduct our contact-tracing,” Bryan said.

“This is not necessarily cause for alarm; we should understand that this is part of the new normal in the COVID era and these ‘flare-ups’ and ‘scares’ will occur,” The chief executive said. “I also assure you that if we have any reason to believe that you have been put at risk for exposure to the virus, the Department of Health will be reaching out to you. Ninety percent of the people we are testing are asymptomatic.”

Travel restrictions

There are currently 11 states and territories under travel restrictions into the Virgin Islands:  Arizona; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Kansas; Mississippi; Nevada; Puerto Rico; South Carolina; Texas and Utah. Travelers from those states and territories must present test results showing they have tested negative for COVID-19 within five days of their arrival into the territory.

“While the data has not shown a significant increase in travel-related COVID positives, we have nonetheless decided to take a proactive posture given what is taking place on the U.S. mainland,” Bryan said.

Unemployment benefits

COVID-19 cases

Bryan’s next COVID-19 briefing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, July 16.

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