Health Officials Say 7 Cases of Highly Infectious 'Stealth Omicron' Variant Detected

Health Officials Say 7 Cases of Highly Infectious ‘Stealth Omicron’ Variant Detected

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Health officials have confirmed the territory’s first few cases of the highly-infectious BA.2 Omicron sub-variant of COVID-19.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Virgin Islands Department of Health said five cases were identified on St. Croix and two on St. Thomas and they were confirmed as the so-called “Stealth Omicron” variant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“These results represent cases that were positive almost two weeks ago,” Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar said. “This means that the Omicron variant has been in the V.I. for a while and it should be expected that future sequencing will identify additional BA.2 cases.” The national prevalence of this subvariant is 72 percent of all COVID-19 cases with the remaining percentage representing the original Omicron variant.

The confirmed presence of the latest variant should be a clear signal for all Virgin Islanders to increase their vigilance by closely following the guidance related to wearing masks, hand washing or sanitizing, social distancing, and testing. “Testing is strongly encouraged for everyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and especially for those who are experiencing symptoms,” Dr. Esther Ellis said.

On March 22 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the Omicron subvariant BA.2 had become the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, worldwide. BA.2 shares many genetic similarities with its close relative BA.1, which fueled a global resurgence in COVID infections in recent months. But BA.2 is between 30 percent and 50 percent more contagious than BA.1.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said BA.2 is about 50 percent to 60 percent more transmissible than omicron, but it does not appear to be more severe.

“It does have increased transmission capability,” Fauci said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “However, when you look at the cases, they do not appear to be any more severe and they do not appear to evade immune responses either from vaccines or prior infections.”

If you suspect you have COVID-19 please call the COVID-19 Hotline at (340) 712-6299 or (340) 776-1519 for information on scheduling a test. The Hotline is open Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Testing is also available on St. John every Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the VI Port Authority (VIPA) Gravel Lot. 

If you have a medical emergency, call 911. For more information, visit For COVID19 updates, text COVID19USVI to 888777.

Persons who have not yet received a vaccine or booster may still do so at:

  • St. Croix’s Community Vaccination Center is located at Charles Harwood Memorial Complex. Monday through Friday, 1pm-4pm.
  • On St. Thomas the Community Vaccination Center is located at the Community Health Clinic on the 2nd floor at the Schneider Regional Medical Center. Monday through Friday, 8am-4pm
  • Vaccines and boosters continue to be available for individuals of all ages on St. John at the pop up in the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) Gravel Lot on Wednesdays between 1:00 p.m. and 4 p.m. Testing is also done at this same site between 12:00 p.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Parents seeking pediatric vaccines for their children aged 5 to 11 on St. Thomas can obtain vaccines at the Maternal, Child Health Clinic in the Elanco Building on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are strongly encouraged and can be made by calling (340) 777-8227. Parents or guardians need to bring identification for themselves and the child as well as the child’s birth certificate.

“Unfortunately, we at the VIDOH have felt that finding the Omicron BA.2 variant in our community was not a question of ‘if’ but rather ‘when,’” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar, the Territorial Medical Director of the VIDOH, said. “Nationally the prevalence for the variant is remarkably high, so it was expected that the V.I. would eventually begin to see cases. Nevertheless, Virgin Islanders should take all precautions to protect themselves from becoming infected with the virus.”

Dr. Hunte-Ceasar is based at the Schneider Regional Medical Center and Hospital in St. Thomas.