Good day, everyone! We have a couple of important changes to the COVID-19 testing requirements to share with you today, as well as an update on the new pilot program regarding on-the-spot testing at our VI airports!
Covid testing age
When the COVID testing requirement was first mandated by our Government in July, travelers ages 15 years and older were subject to the testing requirement.
This week, the USVI Travel Portal managed by the USVI Department of Health updated their website and adjusted the age from fifteen years down to five. News of St. John called the Governor’s office this morning and was informed that the current law requires testing to begin at age 15; however, the next Executive Order issued by the Governor is expected to change the requirement to all travelers ages 5 years and older.
Today, Deputy Commissioner of Health Reuben Molloy announced that the testing requirement remains at age 15. The Government House – US Virgin Islands posted a comment during the press conference on their facebook page, which seemed to be a correction to the statement made by the Commissioner, stating that “Children 5 and older are required to have a negative test taken within 5 days of the date of travel to the territory.”
Covid testing time frame
Early on, travelers needed to be tested within five days of travel. Our Government realized this was an issue for many passengers given the limited testing available in certain states and counties, and shortly thereafter eased the requirement to state that test results must be received within five days of travel (not including the day of travel).
Today, Governor Bryan, Commissioner Molloy, and the written comment issued by the Government House shared above, said that tests once again must be taken within the five day period.
The following graphic was shared on the Government House USVI facebook page to illustrate the days required for testing prior to travel. The test must be taken within five days of travel to the USVI, not including the day of travel.
USVI Travel Portal
As we shared over the last couple of weeks, ALL travelers arriving to the territory – including VI residents – must be tested prior to arriving to the US Virgin Islands and must upload their negative COVID-19 antigen (molecular / PCR / rapid) test result, or a positive antibody test result taken within four months of travel, to the USVI Travel Portal website, which can be accessed here.
News of St. John was provided a fantastic insider tip today by our very own Jenn Manes. After completing the information online, travelers should PRINT OUT the form containing the confirmation number assigned, and bring it with them on the day of travel to physically hand to the guard at USVI airport. Do not rely upon merely showing the guard the information on your cell phone. This bit of advice will greatly expedite the time spent at the airport after your arrival. Thanks Jenn, for continuing to look out for us!
Governor Bryan acknowledged that some of the residents in the territory are nervous and apprehensive about opening our doors to visitors, but he assured us that it is a much needed step for the territory, and said that our government is doing so with the utmost care and caution by putting into place added protocols to keep everyone safe. He acknowledged that even if a traveler is COVID-positive, “This is America, so even if you are positive, the only thing we can do is require a 14-day quarantine until the virus passes,” said Bryan. They will still be allowed access to the island.
The Governor also delivered some positive news about a pilot testing program that was implemented this week at the St. Thomas and St. Croix airports, and 34 arriving passengers were tested at random. Among those tested, one arriving passenger was Covid-positive – a local Virgin Islander returning home to St. Croix.
According to the Governor, we will soon have the capacity to test 300 – 400 travelers arriving at our airports each day once a company has been chosen to complete the full scale testing. Travelers who aren’t tested prior to arrival in the territory will be required to pay for the testing (unless they opt instead to self-quarantine), which is estimated to cost around $50.00. VI residents will likely receive a subsidized rate.
As with every press conference, the Governor encouraged everyone to wear their masks, but today he took it a step further by announcing, “We are currently contemplating universal masks – meaning the minute you leave your house, your mask must be on. If you have to leave your house, put your mask on your face and keep it there until you return to your house.” We will keep you updated as to any new developments.
As we previously announced, restaurants are now allowed to offer dine-in service with proper safety protocols in place. Additionally, several restaurants have been granted exemption from the glass and silverware restriction. You can find the list of restaurants that have been granted the exemption here.
Bars and nightclubs
The Governor said that we should not expect to see bars and nightclubs open until at least February or March of next year.
Current St. John statistics
Deputy Health Commissioner Molloy reminds us that while we are open for leisure travel, we are still in the Safer at Home phase and we need to continue being cautious.
“Our numbers show we are not out of the clear yet, said Molloy. “Mask up.”