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Bryan Meets With FEMA To Discuss STEP Program And Hurricane Recovery Progress

CHRISTIANSTED — During the Government House weekly press briefing on Thursday, Communications Director Richard Motta said that Governor Albert Bryan met with Acting FEMA Regional Administrator David Maurstad to discuss the territory’s hurricane recovery progress, the STEP (Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power) program, and other issues.

Maurstad reaffirmed FEMA’s commitment to resolving the outstanding issues surrounding the STEP program and assured Bryan that the transition of the White House administrations will not affect the progress of the recovery, Motta said.

Bryan and Maurstad also discussed the situation with FEMA’s eligibility determinations for some of the territory’s requests for repairs to storm-damaged roads.

“After initially determining some of those roads ineligible, FEMA has recently agreed to revisit six sites at the Territory’s request and has reversed its decision,” Motta said.

Also under discussion was the Conditional Letter of Map Revision application (CLOMAR) for the Paul E. Joseph Stadium on St. Croix.

“While Acting Administrator Maurstad could not commit to a date for approval of the application, he assured the governor that he is familiar with the issue and is expediting the review,” Motta said. “While on-island, he took the opportunity to tour the project site. Construction on the project currently is stalled lending FEMA’s review of the application.”

Buck Island

Governor Bryan and Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett are working with the National Park Service to make available additional resources to ensure the safety of visitors to Buck Island Reef National Monument following an incident earlier this month when a large gathering that was not adhering to social distancing and masking guidelines got out of hand and resulted in a person being injured by a gunshot.

“Our primary goal is to ensure the park is safe for our local community as well as visitors to the Territory,” Governor Bryan said. “We also have to be good stewards of the precious natural resources at the Buck Island National Monument, that is why we are going the extra mile to keep Buck Island accessible to everyone.”

Until a more permanent solution is found, the National Park Service is providing additional officers from Florida and Puerto Rice to assist in enforcement.

In the January 10 incident, a suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting.

State of the Territory

Bryan is scheduled to give his third State of the Territory address at 7 p.m. Monday, January 25, 2021, and the speech will be livestreamed at the Government House Facebook page, as well as broadcast on a number of radio stations and TV outlets.

The governor will speak from the Legislature on St. Thomas, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, only he, a few members of his Cabinet and senior staff and members of the 34th Legislature will be allowed to attend in person.

The speech can be viewed live at:

In addition, these radio stations will carry the speech live:

  • Papi Love Radio (WVSE 91.9 FM)
  • Da Vybe (WLDV 107.9 FM)
  • Lucky 13 (WSTA 1340 AM)
  • WSTX (970 AM)
  • WTJX (93.1 FM)

Vaccine Rollout

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said that providers across the Territory have administered 4,355 first doses of the vaccines and 294 second doses.

“Support of the vaccine rollout has been tremendous and participation from individuals in phases 1A and 1B is very encouraging,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “The department continues to work diligently on COVID-19 mitigation and although our current efforts have somewhat shifted to vaccine distribution and administration, we are still focused on surveillance, testing and outreach.”

The Commissioner also explained why two doses of the vaccine are needed.

“The first dose helps the immune system to respond to the virus, and the second dose, taken weeks after, further boosts the immune system for long-term protection from the virus,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “It is important that you take the second dose as directed. If you take the Pfizer vaccine for your first dose, you must take the Pfizer vaccine for your second dose.”

Commissioner Encarnacion also spoke about the Department of Health’s monitoring a specific batch of the Moderna vaccine in California that has been the subject of reports of possible adverse effects.

“Fortunately, we have not had any reports of unexpected or severe adverse effects within the Territory or among the individuals vaccinated from this specific supply,” the Commissioner said. “If you have received the Pfizer of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the department encourages you to use the VSafe app to report any side effects.”

VSafe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after receiving a vaccination and it can be downloaded at vsafe.cdc.gov.

Series on Racial Equality

Lisa Harris-Moorhead of the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix gave notice of an upcoming forum on racism the organization is presenting. The fourth forum in the free virtual series is scheduled for February 11, and residents can register to participate at wcstx.org.

VI at Inauguration

Director Motta also remarked about the historic inauguration on January 20 in Washington, D.C., including the Kamala Harris officially assuming the vice presidency as the first women of color to be elected to a national office, and said it represented a bright light shone on that dark underbelly of America that Governor Bryan spoke of last week.

“A light on the darkness and the political divisions that today seemingly provide a cloak for those purveyors of racism, hate and intolerance,” Director Motta said. “But yesterday was also a proud day for Virgin Islanders as we watched our young people in their beautiful displays of some of our favorite pastimes during the inaugural parade across America.”

The Director also Thanked the department of Tourism and the Office of Congresswoman Plaskett for making that happen, and he also recognized those members of the Virgin Islands National Guard and Air National Guard who were part of the security forces at and around the U.S. Capitol during the inauguration.

Unemployment

  • As of January 14, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) has issued 51,540 unemployment insurance checks to residents impacted by COVID-19 job losses totaling more than $41,802,376.
  • The department also has issued an additional 29,016 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation checks totaling $47,974,980.
  • VIDOL has issued 7,057 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance checks to self-employed Virgin Islanders totaling $11,492,090 and $5,578,025 in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
  • Under the newly administered Lost Wages Assistance Program, VIDOL  has issued 3,548 checks totaling $2,994,148.
  • Since April, the Bryan-Roach Administration has issued 95,150 checks totaling $109,965,530 in unemployment benefits.

COVID-19 cases

  • Currently tracking 115 active cases.
  • 39,676 individuals tested to date (almost 40% of the population).
  • 37,465 of those tests were negative.
  • 2,305 tests came back positive.
  • 2,166 people tested since March have recovered.
  • 24 deaths to date.
  • One COVID-19 patient is hospitalized at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
  • One COVID-19 patient is hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.
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