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9-Year-Old Child Among 21 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 Now

CHRISTIQNSTED — A 9-year-old child is among the 21 COVID-19 patients currently being treated at territory hospitals, and with public schools in the territory set to reopen in just two weeks, Governor Albert Bryan says he is considering delaying a return to in-person learning if the numbers don’t improve.

“Virgin Islanders, we are approaching the point of reimposing restrictions, as we currently have 208 cases. The majority of these cases are in the St. Thomas and St. John district, but St. Croix ain’t too far behind. There’s no question that we are experiencing another surge,” Bryan said during Monday’s weekly press briefing.

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said the current test positivity rate is 4.82%, and “this number continues to climb.”

Of the 208 active COVID-19 cases in the territory, 141 are on St. Thomas, 61 are on St. Croix and six are on St. John.

“People are recovering, but we’re still seeing an increase in new positive cases and an increase in hospitalizations among unvaccinated individuals, thus our active cases continue to remain high,” Encarnacion said.

There are currently ten COVID-19 patients at the Juan F. Hospital on St. Croix, and 11 at Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. Five patients are on ventilators.

“We cannot afford to lose anyone else to COVID-19 when there is a vaccine available. Let it not take the death or severe illness of a family member or friend to encourage you to get vaccinated,” Encarnacion said.

Classes are scheduled to resume Aug. 9, but Bryan said he is re-evaluating that date as cases continue to surge among the unvaccinated.

“None of the individuals currently fighting for their lives against this virus, or the 35 people who have unfortunately lost their lives were vaccinated,” Bryan said.

The Sports, Parks and Recreation Department has suspended all of its programs and facility rentals for at least two weeks in response to the increase in virus cases. Bryan also said the Health Department has reached out to its medical procurement contractor, Pafford EMS, in an effort to bolster the resources to battle the COVID surge.

“We need everyone to heed the request to be extremely cautious over the next couple of weeks and to really hold it down. If we can get the numbers trending in the right direction again, we will be all right,” Bryan said.

Encarnacion said that beginning Wednesday, the department’s Digital Vaccination Records will be used to aid re-entry to the territory via the online travel portal.

The Digital Vaccination Records can be carried as a wallet-sized card that also is storable on a smart phone, and will eliminate the need for vaccinated Virgin Islanders to get tested before returning home.

To request your Digital Vaccination Records, go to covid19usvi.com/digitalpass.

During the weekly Government House briefing today, Bryan also said he is considering pushing back the opening of the territory’s public schools on August 9, and that some pandemic restrictions may have to be re-implemented as the U.S. Virgin Islands deals with an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.

The governor also emphasized that the segment of the local population most vulnerable to the highly contagious and more deadly Delta variant strain of COVID-19 are those who are not vaccinated.

“None of the individuals currently fighting for their lives, none of the individuals currently fighting for their lives against this virus or the 35 people who have unfortunately lost their lives were vaccinated,” Governor Bryan said.

The Governor opened the weekly briefing by announcing that the Department of Sports Parks and Recreation has suspended all of its programs and facility rentals for at least two weeks during the increase in cases of the virus. The Governor also said the Department of Health has reached out to its medical procurement contractor in an effort to bolster the resources to battle the COVID surge.

“Virgin Islanders, we are approaching the point of reimposing restriction as we currently have 208 active cases. There is no question that we are experiencing another surge,” Bryan said. “We have requested temporary support and additional resources from Pafford to help supplement our limited manpower while we go through this surge.”

The Governor also reiterated his plea for non-vaccinated Virgin Islanders to get the vaccine and for all residents to follow the safety and health protocols, such as wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings, that have helped the Territory mitigate the spread of the virus.

“We need everyone to heed the request to be extremely cautious over the next couple of weeks and to really hold it down. If we can get the numbers trending in the right direction again, we will be alright,” Governor Bryan said. “No, it’s not the cruise ships; it’s not the planes. While it would be convenient for me to point the finger at those as the culprit, unfortunately, it’s us. It is those of us who don’t want to wear our masks, those of us who insist on hosting and attending mass gatherings, and those of us who have not yet gone out to get the vaccine.”  

Digital Vaccination Records

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said that beginning Wednesday, July 28, the department’s Digital Vaccination Records will be used to facilitate re-entry to the Territory via the travel portal.

The Digital Vaccination Records can be carried as a wallet-sized card that also is storable on a smart phone.

To request your Digital Vaccination Records, go to covid19usvi.com/digitalpass.

Vaccination Lottery winners

The winners for the July 16 drawings for $100,000 in the Vax-to-Win Lottery are

  • Aretha McFarlande on St. Croix
  • Xingbin Yun of St. Thomas, who is accepting the prize on behalf of his daughter Rena, who is a Virgin Islander attending college in Florida.

Retiree Retro Pay

Last week, the Bryan-Roach Administration paid out $10 million owed to government employee retirees who were owed money from a collective bargain unit covering the years 1990-2001.

Eligible recipients received a check of $1,700 – minus applicable taxes – if they were owed that amount or more, and eligible retirees owed less than $1,700 received checks for the difference.

The Division of Personnel has launched a web portal where individuals that were affected by the 8% pay cut can log in to see the amount owed to them, and the Bryan-Roach Administration anticipates making those payouts between now and the end of this year.

The website is at www.dopusvi.org/retirees, and retirees who do not have access to the internet can call a retro hotline for access to the same information or to ask any questions at 340-714-5010. 

Payments may also be claimed by surviving family upon the death of a retiree. To check if a payment is owed, survivors can also visit dopusvi.org/retirees, download and fill out the W-9 form and affidavit and email both documents back comp2021@vi.gov.

Vaccinations administered

•           43,856 persons have received a first dose (49.06% of eligible population)

•           37,005 persons fully vaccinated (41.4% of eligible population)

Anyone 12 and up is eligible to receive the vaccine. Please make sure to have a parent or guardian accompany any minor wishing to get vaccinated and must bring an ID for both the minor and the parent or guardian. 

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

For information about the COVID-19 vaccines, call the VITEMA hotline Mondays-Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 340-777-VACS (8227).

Pop-Up testing sites

This week, pop-up testing sites will be at the following locations:

•           Home Depot Parking Lot on St. Thomas on Tuesday, July 27, from 1 to 3 p.m.

•           Charles Harwood Complex on St. Croix on Tuesday, July 27, from 10 a.m. to noon.

•           The V.I. Port Authority Gravel Yard on St. John on Wednesday, July 28, from 1 to 4 p.m.

•           Charles Harwood Complex on St. Croix on Thursday, July 29, from 10 a.m. to noon.

•           Lionel Roberts Stadium on St. Thomas on Thursday, July 29, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Residents can pre-register for testing online at www.covid19usvi.com/testing and free vaccines are available at the pop-up testing sites.

COVID-19 cases as of July 24

•           4.82% positivity rate

•           Currently tracking 208 active cases (61 STX; 141 STT; 6 STJ).

•           141,518 individuals tested to date.

•           137,143 of those tests were negative.

•           4,375 tests came back positive.

•           4,132 have recovered.

•           35 fatalities.

•           There are 10 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Juan F. Luis Medical Center on St. Croix.

•           There are 11 COVID-19 patients at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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