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Governor Clarifies (lack of) Travel Policy

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The Governor has done an excellent job keeping the virus off of the island of St John.  There have been only 4 positive tests to date.

However, his office issued a clarification to his statements at the press conference yesterday.  It turns out there is NOT yet a policy regarding limiting travel from certain states.  There is no need to cancel your flights yet.  That said, usually when he mentions that something could be coming in the future, it eventually does.  So we should keep a close eye on his weekly statements.

 

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COVID 4th of July Weekend Update

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We have been lucky.  The reality is that St John still has only four positive COVID tests in total, and hasn’t had any in more than two weeks.  The last positive test was on June 17th, and there have been 70 negative test since that date.

 

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This is truly remarkable, especially considering the surge that is happening in hot spots across the country.  Many people on the island were concerned in mid-June about whether the virus would come to St John in a significant way now that the doors were open.  It hasn’t happened…..yet.

The bad news is that St Croix seems to be having a surge in positive tests that are mostly due to traveling workers at the Limetree Bay Refinery.

As a result of those positive tests, the various government agencies are aggressively enforcing all aspects of the Governor’s Executive Orders, including on St John.  Please remember that when a restaurant stays open, they due so at the risk of being held responsible for the actions of its customers.  If people are in the establishment without a mask when they go to the restroom, or while standing in line to be seated, then the restaurant is held responsible.  So please wear a mask and use the disinfectant even if you don’t like the policy.

The good news is we have all done an excellent job in keeping the virus off the island of St John.  We are all in this together.  If we can continue to be vigilant, we can continue to enjoy this wonderful island into the summer months.

Carnival at New Cruz Bay Tiki Bar

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There is a new(ish) tiki bar in Cruz Bay called Drifters Tiki Bar at the previous Lumberyard location.  It is near where there were previously shipping container homes available for tour.

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The tiki bar has tents setup this week with capacity limits being enforced, and virtual viewing available for people who want to watch from home and play it safe.

All content can be watched live on the USVI Festivals Facebook page.

Click here for previous post with more information about the Virtual St John Carnival: https://newsofstjohn.com/virtual-st-john-carnival/

Sahara Dust Update

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The Sahara Dust has been the talk of the island over the last several days.  It is widely viewed to be the worst (or best depending on your perspective) case in roughly five decades.  The sun looked like the moon, and at times you could barely see the gorgeous views of our beautiful island.  But alas, the dust is moving on from St John and headed towards the states.  That means today is a beach day!

CNN is reporting:

“people in places like Brownsville in Texas and Houston will likely wake up to a beautiful sunrise and a hazier than normal sky.  Forecast models show the thicker concentration blanketing most of Central America and Mexico Thursday.”
You can check out this post to see how intense it was just a couple days ago:

https://newsofstjohn.com/a-natural-phenomenon-on-st-john/

 

First Results from Surge in St John COVID Testing……..

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There were two positive COVID tests last week and the first positive test from community transmission.  As a result, some people on island have been a little on edge as their friends and relatives swarmed the health department to get tested, and patiently waited in quarantine for the results.

The first two rounds of results are in, and the results are fantastic so far:

  • One June 22nd, the Health Department reported that 14 tests came back negative, and zero positive.
  • On June 23rd, the Health Department reported another 28 tests came back negative!  That is a huge number considering only 112 people on St John have been tested in total.  Two results are TBD.

This essentially means that the contact tracing that was implemented in the aftermath of the positive tests last week have so far come back negative.  This is a hopeful sign that there was not significant community spread following the two positive tests.

It is likely that a significant number of people will continue to get tested this week.  It is quite possible/probable that new positive tests will still be found in the coming days and weeks.  But 42 negative tests and zero positive tests this week is a very positive sign that the Governor’s policies are working and that community spread is very limited.

Please continue to be vigilant on island about wearing your mask around other people.  Our testing numbers are very good but we are all in this together to keep it that way.

Here is a link to the previous COVID update.

The 6 Best Beach Coolers in 2020

A day at the beach should be relaxing. A cool breeze, waves crashing, sand between your toes. But to fully enjoy your time lounging in the sun on St. John, you’ll need a beach cooler.

Island prices can get expensive and if you plan to stay in the sun all day, having a place to properly store your food and drinks is important. I mean, no one wants a soggy sandwich or a hot drink after being in the heat, right?

Choosing the Right Beach Cooler for You

So how do you know which cooler to choose? We’ve taken a look at the highest rated beach coolers on Amazon with the goal to help you find the best one whatever your needs, budget, and preferences may be.

1. The Best Backpack Cooler: SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack

Best Backpack Cooler - SeehonorPacked with ultimate comfort and portability. This insulated backpack cooler keeps food and drinks cool for hours, even if you’re hiking one of St. John’s many trails. It has multiple compartments for roomy storage and is made of waterproof, durable material.

Dimensions 13 x 7.9 x 17.7”
Weight 1.74 pounds

Why We Like It

  • Easy to clean
  • Leak resistant
  • Multiple compartments
  • Rip, tear, and scratch proof

2. The Best Heavy Duty Cooler: Coleman Rolling Cooler

Best Heavy Duty Cooler - ColemanThis heavy-duty, wheel rolling cooler will meet all of your beach needs. It can keep ice up to 5 days and holds up to 84 cans. Even better? The lid doubles as a seat so you’ll always have an extra place to sit and relax.

Dimensions 23 x 18 x 18”
Weight 14 pounds

Why We Like It

  • Heavy-duty wheels
  • Built-in cup holders
  • Locking telescoping handles
  • Side handles for easy lifting

3. The Best Collapsible Cooler: CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag

Best Collapsible Beach Cooler - ClevermadeThe multi-purpose cooler. Perfect for the beach, grocery shopping at Starfish, and hanging poolside. Its collapsible feature makes it easy to transport. Can hold up to 50 cans of your favorite beverage all while remaining sleek and compact.

Dimensions 18.25 x 12.25 x 12”
Weight 2 pounds

Why We Like It

  • Leakproof
  • Front zippered pocket
  • Bottle opener on straps
  • Collapsible for easy storage

4. The Best Over the Shoulder Beach Cooler: Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Cooler

Best Over the Shoulder Cooler - TitanA cooler that offers high performance and comfort. Adjustable shoulder strap with shoulder pad. Flip open, zipperless lid for easy access. It also comes in 3 other sizes- a 9, 30, and 48 can.

Dimensions 12.2 x 8 x 12.2”
Weight 2.3 pounds

Why We Like It

  • Easy cleaning
  • Insulated front pocket
  • Water and stain resistant
  • Hard liner with shelf inside

5. The Best Beach Bag Cooler: BLUBOON Mesh Beach Tote Bag with Cooler

Best Beach Bag Cooler - BluboonA cooler that’s also a beach bag? You read that right. Apart from its multiple color options, this cooler has a large, lightweight mesh tote. On the bottom is a detachable insulated cooler.

Dimensions 15.5 x 5 x 18.5”
Weight 15.8 ounces

Why We Like It

  • Super lightweight 2 in 1 feature
  • Front pocket for extra storage
  • Mesh bag makes finding items easy

6. The Water Sports “Cooler”: Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag

Best Water Sports Cooler - Earth PakThis waterproof bag isn’t quite a beach cooler. But it’s one of the best ways to keep your food and drinks dry while you do water sports, whether you are paddle boarding at Cinnamon or kayaking with dolphins. Single strap makes it easy to carry. Waterproof phone case. Comes in 5 sizes – 10, 20, 30, 40, and 55 liter.

Dimensions 16.7 x 5.8 x 2.2”
Weight 12 ounces

Why We Like It

  • Fully waterproof
  • Floats when full
  • Quick open/close system
  • Mesh bag makes finding items easy

Criteria We Used to Evaluate Beach Coolers

As you can see, there really is no “best” beach cooler. With so many on the market it comes down to what fits your needs. That being said, this list focused on these main criteria:

  • Quality of materials
  • Durability
  • Size and weight
  • Additional features

Being equipped with a beach cooler can make or break your vacation in St. John’s. If you know what you value most in a cooler, then making the right choice will be a breeze after reading this guide. Happy beaching!

Lind Point Trail: A Great Family Hike

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If you want to explore St. John’s gorgeous National Parks by taking a hike and you’ve got young kids, you’re probably looking for a trail that fits two Governor Clarifies (lack of) Travel Policy 11criteria: it’s short and easy and will be worth the trek. The Lind Point Trail delivers on these two fronts.

We parked just off North Shore Road in one of the gravel parking lots and started our hike by the large brown wooden “Virgin Islands National Park” sign. It probably took us twenty minutes or less to get from our car down to the beach—and that’s with a little one walking at a near-glacial pace.

The hike itself, which offers expansive views of Cruz Bay and the islands and cays of Pillsbury Sound, was easy enough that my four-year-old managed without ever sitting down in protest or demanding a piggy-back ride. It was rocky in many places but is well-traveled and never too steep. There are a few different paths you can take to get down to the beach, but we took the shortest and easiest route by following the signs that pointed to the beaches (even with its relative ease and the beautiful beach ending, I would still recommend sneakers over sandals).

The trail leads to Salomon Beach and Honeymoon Beach. We Governor Clarifies (lack of) Travel Policy 12hung out at Salomon since that’s where the trail spit us out and because it looked like Honeymoon was the busier spot. Don’t get me wrong, it was not crowded, and we had plenty of beautiful white-sand beach to ourselves. Tons of folks were snorkeling and taking pictures, and my kids had a great time spotting different fish, sea urchins, and coral. The water was warm from the sun, but the breeze kept us nice and cool.

After a couple of hours I had to beg and plead for my kids to get out of the water so we could go home. They absolutely loved this spot—so much so that they’ve even asked to do this hike again. I would definitely recommend this hike to families with young kids.

Reef Safe Sunscreen on Amazon: The Ultimate Guide

It certainly can seem like a daunting task to pick a sunscreen that checks all the boxes. Is it waterproof? The right SPF? Reasonably priced?

But if you’re swimming in the islands, there’s one more question you need to consider: is this a reef safe sunscreen?

Why You Need Reef Safe Sunscreen

Your sunscreen may be hard at work protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. But odds are it’s also damaging the environment. A majority of suntan lotions contain harmful ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate. These common UV-blocking chemicals are detrimental to our ecosystem – most specifically, to coral reefs.

Reefs support a vast underwater ecosystem, and they support our life on land. Our reefs are a major defense mechanism against the harmful effects of storms and hurricanes. They protect our coastlines, help prevent erosion, and bring jobs, food, and steady income to local economies.

When we slather sunscreen onto our skin and venture into the ocean, we’re carrying those harmful chemicals with us. These chemicals then wash off into the water. They strip our corals of their nutrients. That damages their DNA and hinders their development, often leading to bleaching and even death.

For all of those important reasons, the USVI legislature unanimously passed, and Gov. Bryan signed, act 8185 in 2019 which banned the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing the “toxic 3 Os” of oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene.

Choosing the Right Reef Safe Sunscreen for You

So how do you know if a sunscreen is both safe for you and the environment? We’ve gone ahead and highlighted the 5 top reef safe, eco friendly suntan lotions on Amazon.

1. Best Overall Reef Safe Sunscreen: Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+

Best Reef Safe Sunscreen - ThinksportThinksport Sunscreen has it all. Major sun protection abilities. Free of biologically toxic chemicals. Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Absorbed seamlessly by the skin. If that doesn’t convince you, this will: it manages to avoid that overpowering smell that many organic sunscreens have.

Why We Like It

  • Mineral based formula
  • Water resistant
  • Non-oily feel
  • Animal cruelty free

2. Premium Choice Reef Safe Sunscreen: Kokua Sun Care SPF 50/80

Premium Reef Safe Sunscreen - KokuaBoth non-toxic and eco-friendly, this product contains no coral reef toxic ingredients. It also provides impressive UVA and UVB protection. It’s formulated with 23 natural antioxidants that provide a nourishing and moisturizing feel on your skin. All the ingredients are sustainably sourced.

Why We Like It

  • Water resistant
  • Contains 25% non-pano particles of zinc oxide
  • Prevents the action of free radicals
  • Light enough for everyday use

3. Great Value Reef Safe Sunscreen: Badger – SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream

Best Value Reef Safe Sunscreen - BadgerBudget conscious about your sunscreen? You can’t beat Badger. Manufactured in the USA by a family-owned company, this biodegradable suntan lotion doesn’t contain any chemicals shown to harm coral life. It contains only 5 ingredients: clear zinc oxide, organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, sunflower vitamin E, and organic sea buckthorn extract.

Why We Like It

  • Hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic & fragrance free
  • Broad spectrum
  • Contains no dyes, parabens, or other artificial ingredients
  • Suitable for sensitive skin

4. Best Reef Safe Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: PURITO Centella Green Level Unscented Sun SPF 50+

Sensitive Skin Reef Safe Sunscreen - CentellaThe perfect match for those with sensitive skin. This lotion contains no essential oils and is fragrance free. It uses SPF50+ PA++++ and photo stable UV filter to provide soft, yet solid protection from UV rays. PURITO also uses recycled paper packaging and donates a part of its profits in order to spread awareness about environmental issues and help fund eco-projects.

Why We Like It

  • Vegan, cruelty and paraben free
  • Safe ingredients for all skin types
  • Skin brightening + anti-wrinkle
  • No white-cast or stickiness

5. Best Reef Safe Sunscreen for Watersports: All Good Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30

Watersports Reef Safe Sunscreen - All GoodThis product was formulated with active adults in mind, making it a great choice for watersports. It contains 12% non-nano zinc oxide particles, ensuring it won’t leave white streaks on your skin while offering a broad spectrum SPF 30 UVA and UVB protection.

Why We Like It

  • Vegan, coral-reef friendly, biodegradable, and gluten-free
  • Water resistant up to 80 minutes
  • Non-greasy, lightweight formula
  • Contains organic green tea, rose hips, and buriti oil for repairing damaged skin

Reef Safe Sunscreen Identification Tips

Still feel like you haven’t found your match?

Here’s the good news: the search for a reliable sun care product doesn’t have to be difficult. Just keep these points in mind when you’re evaluating a sunscreen:

  • The only reef safe sunscreens are those containing non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Terms like “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” are typically used to identify sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two common UV-blocking chemicals. But it never hurts to check the ingredient label just to be sure!
  • Pay attention to packaging. Eco-friendly products usually contain recycled material, material that can be easily recycled, or material gathered from a natural source.
  • Remember: Eco-friendly products don’t just avoid reef damage. They often avoid additional toxic chemicals, too. It’s good for the environment – and good for you.

What’s It Like to Have a Movie Made About Your Life? One Island Resident Knows…

Homer Hickam
Homer Hickam, Owner of Skyridge Villa

Ever wonder what it would be like to make a Hollywood movie? How about a Hollywood movie based on your life? Well, one island resident knows and he wants to share his tales with all of you.

It started back in 1994 when Homer Hickam’s short story about his life as a young boy in Coalwood, West Virginia was published in Air & Space magazine. Hollywood came calling almost immediately, as did a plethora of book agents from New York. And all seemed to want the same thing – they wanted to hear more details his life and his childhood aspiration to become a rocket scientist. Well Homer obliged and soon began writing his memoir Rocket Boys. The book debuted in 1998 and one year later, October Sky was released, a movie based on Homer’s life.

Homer and his wife Linda own Skyridge villa in Upper Carolina. They’ve been part-time island residents for more than 10 years, splitting their time between the island and Alabama.

Ever since Rocket Boys was published, people have asked Homer the same questions: How and why did he write the book, and how exactly was the movie made? Well it may have taken a bit of time, but Homer has finally gotten around to answering those questions.

“I’ve been a little busy since I wrote Rocket Boys with a lot more books, but now I’ve gotten around to writing the answers to those questions and a lot more in my new Kindle Single From Rocket Boys to October Sky,” Homer recently wrote in an email. “Writing Rocket Boys was not an easy journey. In fact after I wrote it, I said, ‘I got a million dollars of psychotherapy I didn’t even know I needed!’

“The making of October Sky wasn’t easy, either. From Rocket Boys to October Sky gives lots of behind-the-scenes stories both on-set and off. Before the first frame of film was exposed, I was involved with the writing of the screenplay. My comment when I saw the first draft – ‘I’m going to have to go up to West Virginia and apologize to everyone in the state!” – perhaps gives you an idea of how that went.

“When you read this book, you’ll be by my side as I struggle with the complexities of how a major Hollywood motion picture is made, and learn how and why I disagreed with aspects of the film even while I admired the dedication and professionalism of the men and women making it. You’ll also be alongside the director and the producers and the actors as they create one of the most beloved movies ever.”

October Sky starred a young Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Homer, as well as Laura Dern.

Homer on the set of October Sky. From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg,  O'Dell Carroll.
On the set of October Sky – From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg & O’Dell Carroll.

In addition to his writings, Homer is also involved with the the Wounded Warriors through Team River Runner (TRR). TRR helps raise money to bring wounded warriors and their spouses to the island for one week of healing each November. Homer, a veteran himself, is proud to support the men in women in their efforts to heal.

“As a veteran, I love to help veterans as much as I can,” Homer said.

Homer will meet with the wounded warriors when they visit during the first week of November, as he does every year. Together they chat and inspire one another. The wounded warriors are also treated to a special screening of October Sky.

And what advice does he give the men and women who may be struggling?

“I tell them that there is a path out,” Homer said. “I suggest they get up in the morning and watch the sunrise. You’ve got the light and the darkness. You’ve got to choose the light.”

Homer Wounded Warriors
Homer speaking with the wounded warriors.

In addition to his work with the wounded warriors, Homer is also in the midst of writing a new book. It involves a pet alligator and one couple’s efforts to drive it from West Virginia to Florida in an old Buick back in 1935. And the best part – it’s a true story about his parents and his mother’s ex-boyfriend who happened to be Buddy Epson of The Bevelly Hillbillies. Stay tuned for more on that one…

If you’d like to read From Rocket Boys to October Sky, you’ll need either a Kindle reader, an e-reader (iPad, Android, etc.), or a computer with the Kindle Application software. You can download the book on Amazon.com for $2.99 by clicking here.