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Bryan Promises To Close Restaurants, Confiscate Boats If Coronavirus Guidelines Aren’t Followed

CHRISTIANSTED — Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. said today that businesses, boaters and unmasked individuals are violating health and safety guidelines and contributing to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases here.

Appearing at his weekly news briefing on St. Croix, Bryan pointed to local social events where people brazenly ignored personal safety as the “main vulnerability” of the territory in terms of its rising COVID-19 numbers.

The governor said restaurants should be “on notice” and that enforcement officers will “strictly enforce” all applicable guidelines for restaurant operations, to include social distancing, face masks and proper sanitation of dishware.

“We’re going to find the culprits that are having these mass gathering events, [those] people that are congregating outside, drinking and having a good time and not adhering to social distancing. We’re going to shut [those businesses] down for 30 days — no questions asked,” Bryan said.

Violators will be closed for 30 days and subject to an administrative fine by the Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA), he said.

Bryan said boats that engage in “rafting” or tying up together will face fines for crew members caught not wearing a mask in places where it is required — and their boats could be confiscated.

The governor also said that of the three groups of COVID-19 cases, travelers comprise the fewest number of positive infections with 69, while community spread accounts for 145 cases and 268 are attributed to close contact with someone who was positive for the virus.

“In this pandemic, we cannot afford to go on hunches. We must let the data be the guide,” Bryan said. “Following the data, we know that our main vulnerability for the spread of this virus is at social events occurring in our community where individuals are not adhering to the guidelines issued by the CDC and the Department of Health.”

Meanwhile, not everyone on social media was convinced tonight that Bryan’s motives were pure.

“Here is the summary of his pathetic speech. Everyone should wear masks (no specification there like what masks, how, what locations),” Tetyana Hayes said from St. Thomas on Facebook. “They don’t know where the ‘hot spots’ are (their data doesn’t give them that information) but there should be no funerals (no more than 10 people), no parties on boats, no joining boats together, no violations in restaurants. Somehow they concluded that (the) rising numbers of positive cases (are) related to those areas. Though again their data doesn’t tell them that. This government can’t stop gun violence but they can stop funerals! So, you are allowed to get shot but your family and friends are not allowed to come and say the last goodbye.”

“Who the hell do elected officials think they are?” Marc Christian of St. Croix wrote on Facebook tonight. “They’re making up shit on the spot to confiscate someone’s boat???This is the problem with big government lovers. We are AMERICANS and not some banana republic citizens.We are guaranteed due process, Sir. Don’t care what you think about masks or not, you ain’t coming to take one damn thing away from me because you feel like it.Thanks, Mobutu.”

“He and his team have failed us all -29 New Cases with most on STT- this is not about boats it’s about money,” Barbara Knight said on Facebook.

To curb the spread of the virus in the territory, Bryan made these new mandates.

Funerals

All funerals or memorials are limited to immediate family members only and no more than 10 family members at any one time.

Restaurants

Restaurants have been put on notice that Enforcement Officers will be strictly enforcing all applicable guidelines to operations of restaurants during COVID-19. Any violators will be subject to closure for 30 days and imposition of an administrative fine by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA).

Boaters

There shall be no “rafting” (boats tying up together) in any bays or anchorages of the Territory and all vessels must be 12 feet apart at all times, except in the case of a medical emergency. Also, no vessels are allowed to anchor in any designated swimming area. Violations of these boating restrictions can result in a fine of up to $10,000 per incident and possible seizure by the Government of the Virgin Islands.

Masking

Individuals found to be in violation of the masking order will be subject to a fine of $50 for the first offense and $100 for each additional offense.

Governor Bryan said the COVID-19 spread currently is worst in the St. Thomas-St. John District, where there are almost 100 active cases on St. Thomas alone. Unlike on St. Croix, where it was possible to trace the nexus of the virus spread at the Limetree Bay facility, Department of Health officials are unable to determine a “ground zero,” and the place where the spread is occurring is not at all obvious, the Governor said.

“We cannot continue to have a policy where all the innocent suffer for the few guilty. We will be enforcing these mandates beginning today, and we will be unforgiving,” Governor Bryan said. “No exceptions. We will fine you, confiscate your boat and close your business if we must. This pandemic is not going away any time soon, and we must adapt to life around it.”

Unemployment

  • To date, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor has issued 28,448 unemployment checks totaling $21,453,946.
  • The Department of Labor also has issued an additional 23,647 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) totaling $36,369,000.
  • The department has begun the distribution of unemployment compensation for self-employed individuals, independent contractors and other workers who ordinarily are ineligible for unemployment and has issued 15 PUA checks totaling $34,518.
  • The Department of Labor COVID-19 hotline is 1-877-374-0356.

COVID-19 cases

  • Currently tracking 128 active cases
  • 10,905 individuals tested to date (more than 10% of the population)
  • 10,357 of those tests were negative
  • 547 tests came back positive
  • 410 people recovered
  • Nine fatalities to date
  • Two COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, with one on a ventilator, at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
  • Six COVID-19 patients, with two on a ventilator, are hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.

Bryan’s next update is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, August 17.

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