One of the first things most visitors do when arriving on St. John – whether it’s their first trip or their 20th – is to take the iconic North Shore Road and stop for photos at the world-famous Trunk Bay Lookout. I even know of one particular resident *ehem* who still does the same, every time she opts for the scenic route in lieu of Centerline.
Governor Albert Bryan Jr. delivered several bits of optimistic news today. In no particular order (although we are certain you will have your favorites):
Last week, we shared the fantastic news that our positivity rate was under 1% (you can read about that here), and although we have seen an increase in the number of guests arriving at our airports, our Covid positivity rate continues to remain under 1% for the second week in a row!
There are currently three active cases of COVID-19 on St. John, with only 16 total positive cases in the territory. As such, Governor Bryan expressed his optimism about lifting some of the restrictions that have been in place for the past few months, and said we will see several changes in the 18th Executive Order issued this week, adding that “We are slowly getting there, but we can’t get there without your cooperation.”
Hospitals and medical facilities
Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated our territory’s hospitals and medical facilities that were already in need of some TLC. After receiving almost 13 million in grant funding for the repairs – and in some cases, entire rebuilds – our Governor announced that the designers have been selected for the various projects, and the design phase – estimated to take 6 to 18 months – will soon commence. The Myrah Keating Medical Center on St. John was granted 1.5 million of the funds for the rebuild.
The Governor’s goal is to ensure that our residents and our visitors ultimately receive any and all medical care they may need while in the territory.
Several months ago, the Governor issued an order stating that all restaurants must suspend the use of regular dining ware, and only disposable glasses, plates, silverware, and napkins were allowed until further notice. In August, the Department of Health relaxed this restriction for restaurants that could prove they were able to adequately sanitize their dining ware. Over the following weeks, most of the restaurant owners and managers on St. John were granted a special use permit, allowing them an exception to the disposable mandate.
Today, the Governor announced that as of Wednesday, October 14, 2020, all restaurants are allowed to make the switch back to regular dining ware. This is welcomed news for the restaurant owners and staff, the patrons, and the environment!
Churches and Houses of Worship
Effective immediately, churches and houses of worship are allowed to accommodate 50% of their capacity, or a maximum 100 persons, whichever is less. This is an increase from the previous 50-person maximum mandate.
Starting next month on November 9, 2020, mass gatherings will increase to 50% of the capacity, with no more than 100 persons for indoor and outdoor activities.
(Note: For these purposes, and for the sake of clarity, a bar is defined as the overall establishment, and not the bar counter).
Last but certainly not least, effective November 9, 2020, all bars and nightclubs with the capacity to offer table service will be allowed to reopen! Previously, bars that did not serve food were ordered closed. However, all of our bars are allowed to reopen as long as they can provide table service in lieu of counter service. Per the Governor’s statement at the press conference, restaurant and bar guests must be seated at a table, served by wait staff, and must not be allowed to stand around the bar counter, order from the bar, or congregate around the bar or outside of the venue. Seated patrons may order food, alcohol, or both, as long as they are seated at a designated table with adequate social distancing. Restaurants with bars are no longer mandated to sell and serve food simultaneously with alcoholic beverages.
Live Music and DJs
The atmosphere at a bar is complete with the addition of live music. When the bars reopen, live music and DJs will be allowed in licensed establishments until midnight.
I think most would agree this is exciting news, and indicative of the progression to our ‘new normal’. If we all continue to do our part, and if our Covid-19 positivity rate remains low, the Governor anticipates lifting more of our restrictions over the coming weeks!
Have you been scrolling through your vacation photos in desperate need of a St. John fix and unable to find a flight? Before you fill your living room with sand and install a fake palm tree in the center of the room, we might have some news that will brighten your day!
Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte announced that the US Virgin Islands is expecting a major increase in American Airlines flights beginning in November!
Dr. Brett Ellis, US Virgin Islands Territorial Laboratory Director, shared some incredible statistics at today’s press conference regarding our Covid-19 numbers. From the figures provided, it appears that the course of action taken by our Government has had the exact impact we have all worked so hard – and sacrificed so much – to achieve. Not only have we met our goal of a 3 to 5 % positivity rate (the number of positive tests in relation to the total number of tests conducted in any given period), WE HAVE EXCEEDED OUR GOAL!
While many of us dream of setting sail on a luxurious cruise across the Caribbean Sea, there is no amount of free buffet food and Broadway-esque entertainment that can distract one entirely from the reality that cruise ships tend to be more at risk for outbreaks of infectious diseases. Given the close proximity of travelers in a relatively small, enclosed space, justifiable concern exists about cruising in the days of Covid.
We’ve got some updates about two of your favorite St. John beaches!
Several months ago, the National Park Service (NPS) suspended most of their operations over health and safety concerns for their employees, volunteers, and visitors due to COVID-19. The suspension of services resulted in the temporary closure of hiking trails, bathroom and shower facilities, and the National Park Visitor Center on St. John. One nice perk that came from the closure was the suspension of the collection of admission fees at Trunk Bay. Our island residents took full advantage of the fee waiver and had the beach nearly all to ourselves all summer!
This week, with guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local public health authorities, and the US Virgin Islands Governor’s Executive Order easing some of the virus restrictions, the NPS is transitioning their re-opening on St. John in a phased approach.
Wise entrepreneurs don’t panic when a pandemic hits. Instead, they look for creative ways for everyone to benefit from it. As such, it’s no surprise that drive-in movies are making a dramatic come-back this year all across the United States, largely due to the COVID-19 social distancing mandates. It’s also no surprise that St. John is following suit.
I channeled my inner Cinderella and spent the day in a glass carriage on Maho Bay.
My Prince (not his real name) and I ventured out in search of an adventure. While strolling through Love.Maho, the charming boutique shop at Maho Crossroads, we happened upon the coolest kayaks we’ve ever seen.
Thanks to modern advances in technology, you can now rent an entirely transparent Crystal Explorer Kayak, allowing you to explore the ocean directly underneath the comfort of your seat, without ever getting wet. Given that one of us is the outdoorsy type, and the other is a bit of a princess, the two-hour, $30.00 tandem rental seemed like a perfect fit for us both.
We crossed the road to Maho Bay with our crystal carriage in hand, and without any effort or comedic relief, easily inserted ourselves into it – and off we went, into the wild blue yonder.
While I was fawning over the sheer beauty of our vessel, My Prince was expertly pointing out all of the less exciting but equally important features, such as the sturdy, stable nature of the kayak itself, ease of paddling, and 100% Lexan construction.
I have been snorkeling in Maho Bay for over 30 years, but enjoying it from this perspective was quite unique. This clear kayak allows you to fully experience life under the water from above, with entirely unobstructed views from every angle. The visibility is comparable to that of a snorkel mask. We watched through the clear surface of the kayak walls and floor as the fish circled, and the turtles glided effortlessly below and then surfaced directly next to us. As a bonus, I got a two-hour work-out without even realizing I was exerting any effort!
Besides the unique transparency feature, what sets this apart from the other watersport rental options is that it is technically a canoe-kayak hybrid, which provides the best features of both: An open cockpit, unparalleled stability, high sides, ultra-comfortable ergonomic padded kayak-style seats, and ample room to store your gear – including a picnic lunch and frosty beverages. Additionally, the low draft of these kayaks allows for traversing in very shallow water.
Whether you’re a novice kayaker like me, or a seasoned adventurer, you’ll love this kayaking experience. I lost count at the number of people who stopped us in the water to inquire as to where they could rent one. And now YOU know!
I can’t wait to do it again. It was a perfect fairytale afternoon.
Did you hear that collective cheer? It was a united expression of our excitement over the news delivered at the British Virgin Islands press conference this evening announcing that our friends across the Caribbean Sea will reopen for visitors on December 1, 2020!