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.
The COVID-19 pandemic became a real thing in the Virgin Islands just before the St. Thomas Carnival this spring. The annual celebrations on each island have always been a time for our communities to come together and the cancellation of both St. Thomas and St. John’s carnivals was a hard pill to swallow for everyone.
The St. John Festival always ends on the 4th of July with a 24 hour celebration of Emancipation Day on the third (We will be doing a piece on the history behind Carnival around the first of the month!).
To say that this gathering is needed this year is an understatement. With 1 new travel related COVID case on St. John this week and the extension of the State of Emergency to July 12th, the St. John Festival has been cancelled. But, the show must go on!
The USVI Department of Tourism and its Division of Festivals will host a virtual carnival, complete with local bands and DJ’s, virtual food fair and culture pop-ups! Tune in between June 27 and July 4 for a little slice of St. John culture on the USVI Festivals website or Facebook page. Here is the full schedule:
The passenger ferry has expanded their service as of today!
Notice the weekday service is a bit more “back to normal” than the weekends, but they are still making their last trip to Red Hook from Cruz Bay at 8PM instead of Midnight. If you’re coming in on a later flight, make sure to make other arrangements! We posted some guidance about private transportation as well as the Crown Bay ferry schedule last week.
We will keep you up to date about the schedules as they evolve!
Live Music is Back! And here’s who is doing what this week>>>>
We are slowly rolling our way back into a regular momentum here on St. John. I went out for take-out last night and it was great seeing one of my favorite restaurants as full as they could be by current capacity restrictions. Employees busy and smiling behind their masks. Unfamiliar faces at tables and the bar. Tourism has trickled back in. And, as scary as moving forward may seem, it was good to see my friends behind a busy bar again!
Live music was one of the very first things to be restricted. And that’s reasonable. People tend to gather and stay in places longer when there is live entertainment. Just prior to the stay at home orders, we had VI Jam Fest, several nationally touring acts at different venues around St. John, St. Thomas Carnival around the corner. Bars and restaurants were testing the live music game for the first time. Most of the long-standing ones were doing seven days a week with a lot of really fun things on the horizon. And then, just like everything else, it stopped dead in its tracks.
Well, the first to stop and the last to get started. Thank you Governor Bryan for bringing live music back! Beginning on Monday June 8, 2020, in the Virgin Islands, the show can go on! With restrictions…
From the Office of the Governor – Issued and Effective on June 1, 2020:
No live bands or DJ’s in open public areas
Event centers and banquet halls must comply with mass gathering mandates of less than 50 people or 50% of their occupancy capacity (Whatever is less)
No live music or DJ’s permitted after 12 midnight
Live band shall be set up with space of ten (10) feet between the band and patrons using social distancing principles.
A clear barrier between live music and patrons may be considered but is not required.
Now that we all know the expectations and regulations, who is doing what?
A few of the staples for live music are taking their time on figuring out how to manage performances with the current regulations. Once again, I want to remind you that the government will shut down and/or fine these businesses if they are caught being non-compliant so, let’s bear with ALL of small businesses while we get through the beginnings of this blue phase.
But, a couple of our favorite venues are jumping right back in! The following restaurants have scheduled performances, but be sure to check their Facebook pages and websites for additional updates.
Miss Lucy’s – Thursday night open mic starts again on June 25th. Every Thursday at 5:30-?
Lovango Rum Bar – Evening and Sunset music regularly beginning this weekend.
Cruz Bay Landing – Starting up this week 6-9PM
Fridays – IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart
Saturdays – Artist TBA
Sundays – Pam and Broheem (Start date on the Sunday shows TBD)
The Virgin Islands National Park Service issued a release on June 3 that gets us a bit closer to that new normal we are all dreaming of.
Today, June 6, the NPS reopens the park-maintained facilities at the following locations:
Trunk Bay – Restrooms and Showers – Entry fees remain waived for the meantime
Hawksnest Bay- Restrooms and Changing Rooms
Restrooms and/or Porta Johns at Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, Francis Bay, Salt Pond Bay, Lameshur and Annaberg.
Although, the concessions at Trunk and Cinnamon remain closed, all park waters, beaches and trails are OPEN. The park resumes trash pick-up today as well and replaced the garbage receptacles on the beaches earlier this week. As always, however, pack-in, pack-out is highly encouraged as the collection areas are not designed for high volume use.
On April 6, the VI government closed the territory owned beaches and the NPS followed their lead almost immediately. The beaches and trails were re-opened on April 20, but the above facilities, as well as the picnic pavilions, remained closed. The picnic areas are not mentioned in the NPS release from June 3.
A little factoid for those of you who don’t know (I know, many do, but bear with me): The majority of the St. John beaches are operated and maintained by the National Park Service. BUT, the majority of the beaches and trails on the other Virgin Islands are owned by the territory. A lot of people were confused when the Department of Parks and Natural Resources (DPNR) released their beach water testing results and none of the popular STJ beaches were listed (They tested Oppenheimer, Cruz Bay, Frank Bay, Great Cruz Bay and Johnson Bay). Follow Friends of the VI National Park and Virgin Islands National Park to stay up to date on St. John specific beach info and water testing results!
The Cruz Bay Visitor center also closed its doors in April and will remain closed for the time being with “public and employee health in mind.”
Social distancing and face coverings are still highly encouraged and hand sanitizer in your beach bag is never a bad idea!
“We have felt the love from local residents who have kept park beaches, trails and public spaces safe and clean over the past two months,” says Nigel Fields, park superintendent. “Now as the USVI begins to open the doors to broader tourism, we want everyone to remain safe while enjoying the park’s many resources.”
I hope you all have a GREAT weekend! Thank you for all of the positive feedback and support this week. Jenn’s are definitely a big pair of flip-flops to fill and there’s a lot to learn in the process. —Speaking of Jenn, you’ll be hearing from her tomorrow!
For those of you who are not on island during these times, there is a new way for you to bring the sights, sounds and people of St. John into your living room twice a week! Silver linings in the midst of a pandemic.
As you know, when the stay at home order began at the end of March, it left most people in the ranks of the unemployed (or underemployed). Musicians are not exempt from these unfortunate circumstances. The music industry, like the majority of the economy, has been rocked (pun intended) by this shut down. But, musicians of all genres and levels of stardom all over the world have developed creative ways of sharing their magic. And some of our St. John musicians are resiliently plowing through this pandemic in similar ways.
Have you ever been to the Thursday night open mics at Miss Lucy’s in Coral Bay? This long standing open mic has changed location several times….Most recently it was on Thursday nights at Pickles in Paradise. If you have been lucky enough to happen upon this weekly event over the years, you know St. John has some unique and musically talented characters in attendance!
The Pickles open mic grew into something really powerful post Irma recalls Lauren Jones Magnie, hostess of the open mic and amazing songstress of St. John. “People needed a reason to let loose. To be together. To enjoy life.”
And, in another difficult time, music is bringing artists together again. This time, in a virtual platform that lets everyone…on or off island…participate in and appreciate the collaboration.
Lauren started a virtual open mic that airs via Facebook on Thursday nights at 5:30-ISH. She coordinates the ENTIRE thing…collecting and editing the videos, coordinating the artists and even creating a virtual dance floor for the weekly event with dancers submitting their videos from afar for inclusion. Featuring the talents of many St. John residents, this weekly video has become a creative outlet for those performing and a St. John fix for those watching from home.
Tune in on Thursday evenings on Lauren and her husband Bo’s facebook page or tune in now to check out the archived performances. Lauren wanted to give some love to the regular contributors who have helped to build this amazing weekly event. Her husband Bo Magnie, Otis Magnie, John Magnie, Pam and Broheem, Laz Liburd, Charlie, Rich Greengold, Joy, Ken Betts, Ital, Kerrin Buckley, Johnny B and Channing are just a few of the faces you will find familiar throughout these streams.
A few highlights I’d recommend are
ELENA!!! Lauren and Bo’s daughter is ten years old and performs her original music with a fire inside her little soul! –Check out the May 21 (open mic #7) for her performance of her original song “If I Could” with her grandfather
Allegra Miles- finalist in “The Voice” submitted a video for the May 7 episode!
May 14 – Pamela Leverett-Love and Broheem on the Sax with Lauren and Bo!
IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart is another ambitious STJ based musician who has taken her talents to to the world wide web. If you have ever wandered through the park in Cruz Bay on a Friday evening, you may have had the pleasure of hearing the sweet island tunes of Erin Hart ringing through the courtyard from Cruz Bay Landing. Erin has played Friday nights in Cruz Bay for the past ten years, beginning at Rhumb Lines and began her weekly stint at the Landing in 2018. When live music was cancelled everywhere this spring, she continued this tradition with a Friday Night Sunset Concert Series from her deck overlooking Cruz Bay and St. Thomas.
Both Erin and Lauren reported overwhelming responses from their online followings. Erin said “I didn’t anticipate that the shows were going to be as impactful to the people watching as they were to me. It gave us all something to look forward to. For an hour and a half every Friday we could tune out the chaos together and just soak in some good feeling music and a beautiful St. John sunset.”
You can tune in for a private living room concert with a LIVE St. John sunset every Friday night at 5:15 on her facebook page. If you need a Love City fix now, the performances are archived on her new feed as well!
Both of these lovely ladies plan to continue these virtual traditions at least until the live music ban (what is actually happening right now?) is lifted.
I hope that you can find a little time to tune in and enjoy a slice of St. John in your living room this week. The Governor’s recent orders have stated that while he is relaxing the social distancing protocol for bars and restaurants, live music will still not be permitted quite yet. So we will be enjoying these streams right along with you.
We generally update you on seasonally scheduled closings a bit closer to the peak hurricane season months. In light of the reopening of St. John to tourism, and A LOT of variations as to what business owners are deciding to do, we thought this might be a good time to clue you in as to what your restaurant options are this month!
We are excited to say that MANY of your favorite restaurants are bouncing back immediately! The majority are operating with full service and full menus seven days a week. Some, however, are sticking to take-out for now while others are postponing the announcement of a reopening date until we see how this goes. This list was updated as of June 1st, but be sure to check their websites or social media pages for updates as we move through this next transition together!
Also, please keep in mind when visiting your favorite Love City establishments that all businesses are required to follow current VI Social Distancing protocol. Jenn posted a great recap on the overall rules for the territory last week. We are currently in Phase Blue – Open Doors.
To recap the restaurant and bar specific rules:
Establishments may operate at 50% capacity or 50 people. Whichever is less.
All employees are required to wear masks. Patrons may be required at the discretion of the business owner….All other commercial entities are on a strict “No mask, No service.” policy. (Stores, taxis, the passenger ferry, etc.)
All tables and bar stools will be separated by the staff according to social distancing measures.
No parties larger than 6 people will be permitted to sit together.
Please be patient with restaurant owners and staff with these regulations in mind. They are in jeopardy of losing their business license if they are non-compliant.
The following restaurants are OPEN! —Or scheduled to reopen soon!
The Tap Room – 7 days a week, 11am-11:45PM
North Shore Deli – 7 days a week, 8AM-3PM
Greengo’s Caribbean Cantina St. John – 7 days a week, 11AM-8PM
Pizza Pi (located in Christmas Cove) – Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, Weds-Sun, 11AM-6PM
Sam and Jack’s Deli – Closed Sundays, Mon-Sat 9AM-3PM
Shaibu’s Grab and Go – Closed Saturdays and Sundays, Mon-Fri 8AM-3PM
Skinny Legs – 7 days a week, 11AM-8PM
St. John Scoops – 7 days a week, Noon-8PM
Tap & Still St. John – 7 days a week, 11AM-10PM
Dave and Jerry’s Island Steakhouse – Opening June 8, Closed Sundays, Mon-Sat 5PM-9PM
Uncle Joe’s BBQ – 7 days a week, 11AM-8:30PM (Closes at 6:30 on Sundays)
Longboard – Open Thursday, June 4, 7 days a week, 3PM-11PM (Kitchen closes at 10PM)
Woody’s – 7 days a week, Noon-11PM
Lovango Rum Bar – Closed Sundays & Mondays, Tues-Sat 4PM-9PM
Oceans 362 – Closed Tuesdays, Weds-Mon 5PM-9PM
420 to Center/G-Spot – Bar open 7 days a week, 11-?, Kitchen Noon-?
Irie Pops – Closed Sundays, Mon-Sat Noon-4PM
18⁰64- Takeout Only – Closed Mondays, Tues-Sun, Noon-6PM
Lime Out – Boat Pickup/Drop off at Coral Bay Dock only- Closed Wednesdays & Thursdays, Fri-Tues 11AM-5PM
Gwen’s – Call at least 24 hours in advance to special order Conch, Fish, Chicken or Shrimp – Take-out only.
P and P’s by the Sea – Pre-order take-out on scheduled days only.
Banana Deck – Re-opening mid-late June
Miss Lucy’s – Tentative plan to re-openmid-June
The following restaurants have not determined a reopening date as of yet. Everything is changing quite rapidly and restaurant owners are deciding a lot of “what’s next” based on the safety of their staff and their VERY valued guests. They appreciate your patience and your support.
Joe’s Rum Hut
Pizzabar in Paradise
Quiet Mon Pub
Coral Bay Caribbean Oasis
Extra Virgin Bistro
We will continue to update you as these transitions occur. But hopefully, our favorite spots will continue to re-open their doors throughout the summer until regularly scheduled off-season closures begin.
As we mentioned above, things are changing daily. If you have information on any establishments that you do not see listed above or corrections to the ones you do, please email us or post it in the comments!
Hello everyone, and happy Friday! I just wanted to give you a quick update on St. John’s June 1 “reopening.” But before I do so, I just wanted to thank each and every one of you who left such beautiful comments and those of you who emailed me the other day. You sure know how to make a gal feel good! I promise to respond to each and every one of you. Again, thank you. 🙂
The Governor held a press conference yesterday and provided some additional information regarding the Virgin Islands’ June 1 “reopening.” We’re using quotation marks because the Territory was never really closed. Accommodations, however, were unable to check in new guests. That ban ends Monday.
On Monday, June 1, the US Virgin Islands – St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix – will move to the blue Open Doors phase. This means that visitors are, once again, welcomed to visit St. John.
Our restaurants reopened for in-person dining this past Tuesday. The number of people permitted in bars and restaurants is limited to 50 percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. You will not have to wear a facial covering when visiting a bar or restaurant. The staff, however, will all be wearing masks. Parties will be seated at least six feet apart to maintain social distancing, and no parties larger than six will be permitted to sit together. The majority of the island’s restaurants and bars have reopened or plan to reopen next week.
You will be required to wear facial coverings when entering all other commercial entities including shops, grocery stores, etc.
At this time, mass gatherings greater than 50 people are not permitted. The Governor stated yesterday that he expected that number to increase to 250 people this summer.
Regarding flights, the Governor stated that only 15 percents of the flights available prior to the pandemic are currently flying into the Territory. He does not anticipate seeing an increase in that number until next season (which is anytime between October and December).
The Governor stated that he does not expect cruise ships to return to the Territory until August at the earliest.
Temperature screenings are occurring at the airports, and heat sensing cameras are being installed as well.
Boat charters are operating, although all trips will take place in US waters. The British Virgin Islands is closed to visitors and will continue to be closed through September.
Taxis will be available and capacity will be restricted to 50 percent. Car rentals are open and available too.
As we mentioned Wednesday, the new News of St. John owner takes over the site June 1. We plan to chime in later next week to let you all know how the “reopening” is going. In the meantime, have a great day everyone!
Hello everyone, and happy Wednesday! We made it to the middle of the week! It’s been a bit since we’ve updated you on what’s happening around the island, so here’s a quick little update.
As of today, May 13th, there have been 69 positive COVID-19 tests in the US Virgin Islands. There were two on St. John back in March. Since then, there have not been any positive cases on the island. St. Thomas has had 38 confirmed cases, and St. Croix has had 29. There have been six COVID-related deaths in the US Virgin Islands. Three of those deaths were from the same family, which is absolutely tragic.
As of today, the US Virgin Islands plans to move to its “Open Doors” phase on June 1. At this time, accommodations will, once again, be able to accept new guests. (Currently hotels, villas, Airbnbs, etc. are unable to check in new guests. This began back on March 24.) This means that tourists can once again visit the island per the government beginning on June 1. Gatherings will be limited to 50 people at that time, which we believe will include all restaurants and bars. The move to the Open Doors phase on June 1 is subject to change. Should that happen, we will let you know immediately.
I’ve received numerous emails asking about restaurants and what specifically will be open. As of today, it appears that the majority (if not all) will be open on June 1 and moving forward. Numerous restaurants are open today and are offering to-go food. Beginning June 1, restaurants will be able to offer in-house dining once again. But again, it is likely that they will be limited to 50 people at a time and that includes staff.
Regarding our annual seasonal closings – many restaurants and bars close because of hurricane season which starts June 1 – it is too soon to know who will close and when. We just need to get through this first, and then businesses can make a decision on that.
The British Virgin Islands government announced that non-residents will not be able to visit their islands – Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Norman Island, Cooper Island and Virgin Gorda are all part of the British Virgin Islands – until sometime around September 1, 2020. This means that charter boats are not allowed to bring guests to the BVI until then.
I’ve been asked repeatedly how residents feel about visitors returning to the island. Truthfully, there are mixed feelings. On one hand, residents are ready to welcome visitors as our economy relies heavily on tourism and the island has been suffering financially due to COVID-19; And on the other hand, many people are extremely apprehensive about the idea of visitors returning and potentially, if not likely, bringing the virus with them. As of today, the majority of residents still have not received a stimulus check; the majority of residents have not received unemployment checks (although I do know some that received their first check this past Monday, so that’s progress!); and the majority of small business owners have yet to receive a PPP or SBA loan. So in that regard, people are looking forward to tourism resuming. But are people fearful that St. John will see an increase in COVID-19 cases once visitors return? Unequivocally, yes.
Now let’s talk flights. As with everywhere, flights to the airport on St. Thomas (STT) have been scaled back dramatically due to COVID-19. As of today, American Airlines looks like it will resume daily service from Miami on June 5. Currently they are flying here roughly 5-6 times a week. Delta does not appear to be resuming its daily service from Atlanta or New York until July 2 and July 3 respectively. United is also offering a flight between Newark and STT, and a flight between Washington DC on seven days in June. Spirit is flying its Ft. Lauderdale to St. Thomas route on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays only for the month of June. JetBlue has scaled its flights back too. So it may prove challenging initially to visit the island from a flight perspective should you choose to.
(These are examples and are subject to change.)
And with that, I think I will end this post right here. I will do my best to answer your questions in the Comments section or over on our Facebook page. Have a wonderful day everyone.
Have you entered our 2020 raffle? For just $20, you can enter to win a five-night stay at Aquamare at Grande Bay plus $1,000 courtesy of 340 Real Estate Co.! All proceeds will benefit the Animal Care Center. Get the details and buy tickets here: www.newsofstjohn.com/were-holding-another-raffle
Well folks, the Governor just concluded a press conference and we have lots of information to share with you!
Let’s start with the topic I know you all want to know about the most – when can you return to St. John. According to the Governor, tourists will likely be able to return to the US Virgin Islands beginning on June 1.
The Governor announced a five tier alert system Wednesday afternoon, which will help manage the Territory’s reopening. The system is color coded and can be seen below:
As of today, April 29, 2020, St. John (and the entire Virgin Islands) is operating as Orange. Beginning Monday, May 4, 2020, St. John will move to Yellow. It is anticipated, per the Governor, that St. John will move to Blue on June 1, 2020.
“We anticipate moving from this yellow Safer at Home status to the blue Open Door status on June 1st,” the Governor said Wednesday afternoon. “That’s when we will be opening up the reservation systems, and welcoming tourists back, leisure travelers into our Territory. We figure this month we will be able to see where our weak points are, reinforce our airports which we have found to be where the virus is coming onto the Territory. At the same time, being able to get more reinforcement at both hospitals…”
When St. John begins operating under the Blue status, restaurants will be able to offer dine-in services once again. Currently, restaurants are only able to offer take out, delivery or drive through. For the time being, all bars remain closed.
There seems to be an outstanding question regarding whether or not people entering the US Virgin Islands are required to quarantine. I reached out to Government House via Facebook and was told:
“Temperatures are taken at the time of arrival to the Territory and those individuals are also monitored. The 14-day quarantine following travel is not mandatory.”
Beginning Monday, May 4, 2020, face coverings will be required when entering all commercial establishments. It is uncertain whether that will continue or expire when travelers are invited to return June 1.
Not everyone will agree with the Governor’s plan. Some think the reopening is too soon; some think it is too late. Whatever your feelings may be, let’s be kind to one another. Love always wins. Hate does not.