COVID on St. John-  Last Minute Cancellations and Restaurant Closures

COVID on St. John- Last Minute Cancellations and Restaurant Closures

Good Morning, Good Morning! Due to the recent (January 3) changes in protocols, I have written a lot about the testing requirements to get into the territory recently. And many of you have scrambled and made those quick turnaround tests happen! But, what I haven’t mentioned is the effects of this current surge in the territory, on St. John specifically. And there is some definite news you can use here, especially if you are currently on island or planning a last minute trip!

One of the unending parts of this job is to follow social media in order to keep myself updated on trends in the industry, commonly asked questions and challenges that visitors are experiencing. Yes, I’m out and about and tapped into the on-the-ground “Coconut Telegraph” here on St. John, but, sometimes Facebook is a great way to get a bird’s eye view into what is going on here. And, recently, there have been a TON of last minute cancellations for both villas/condos and charter boat trips.

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Generally speaking, these last minute changes don’t happen in high frequency at the last minute on St. John due to loss of deposits and cancellation policies (Call your accommodations to find out what their COVID policies are for cancellations!). However, with this new surge and the changes in testing policies to enter the territory, there have been A TON of them posted publicly…I can’t speak to the ones that are not being shared in order to try to find a last minute booking in order to compensate for the lost revenue. But, I’m sure there are more that we are not seeing…

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I know from speaking to two different hospitality agents that positive COVID tests prior to traveling have been to blame for some of these. And that the lack of testing resources in some areas may also be the culprit. On the plus side, if you are on island and looking to extend your stay, have experienced a cancellation from your accommodations or are looking for a last minute trip, keep an eye on the St. John FB groups (St. John Last Minute Boat Trips & Vacation Rental Deals is a great one!). There are a ton of openings out there for both boat charters and rentals.

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Additionally, it seems many St. Thomas based boat charters are getting last minute cancellations due to cruise ships not being able to make their scheduled call. Much like in many other places around the Caribbean, the USVI has a strict policy when it comes to the percentage of positive cases on board a ship. More than 1%? The passengers will not disembark in the territory.

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St. John day boats don’t necessarily see as much traffic from cruise ship visitors as the St. Thomas boats that will pick up near the ports. But I do know of at least one instance personally where a trip was cancelled with three days notice due to cruise ship passengers encountering some type of COVID related issue.

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The Cruise Ship Crystal Symphony outside of Cruz Bay

On St. John specifically, we currently have OVER 100 positive cases of COVID-19. The Department of Health has expanded the days and hours for pop-up testing at the gravel lot and, even so, it has been PACKED with residents anxious to test before reporting to work and potentially spreading this nasty bug. Previously the testing was just once week and now they are offering the services three days a week. Still packed!

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The outcome of these tests have driven several favorite restaurants to close their doors for a period of time due to staffing shortages and COVID-related causes. You see, even if your opinion rests with a lack of necessity to stop the spread, the restaurants and other businesses here on island are SO short staffed that if even one staffer is unable to report for duty because they are ill, the business can’t open their doors! Literally everyone is hiring!

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The line for COVID testing at the gravel lot on New Year’s Eve

Over the New Year holiday, Dave & Jerry’s Island Steakhouse closed their doors (on one of the busiest nights of the year, I might add!). Stating that they would not be able to open in order to have their entire staff tested, the Steakhouse closed their doors on New Year’s Eve and re-opened with their active staff members who received negative test results.

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This week, the dining reservations are going to get even MORE tricky with the following restaurants closed to due COVID-related staffing shortages:

  • Lime Inn – Closed until January 10
  • The Terrace – Closed until January 7
  • Extra Virgin Bistro – Closed until January 11
  • Miss Lucy’s- closed until January 10

The Longboard is remaining open through the week, but have announced they will be serving a limited menu with limited hours due to a staffing shortage. (Kitchen open until 9PM, bar until 10PM)

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Additionally, many businesses have announced the closure of their doors for a day so that staff can get tested. So, if you have a place in mind, or have reservations for certain places, over the coming weeks, keep an eye on their Facebook pages and/or call ahead to check their hours and days of operation. I’ll do my best to continue to update this list as I see others pop up.

The moral of the story? Yes, this variant is not as deadly. The Governor stated in his press conference on Tuesday that he is keeping an eye on the hospital beds. On St. Thomas, there are nine patients in house (two on ventilators) and on St. Croix there are five patients in house (zero on ventilators).

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STT Hospital stats this week

Even with the surge in cases, these numbers are not high and the Governor says he sees no need to reassess our policies as long as they stay that way (ie, he is not leaning towards any drastic changes like closing the territory as in the past surges). Which is all great news! But, this Omicron business is still adversely affecting our local community and businesses in the sense of loss of revenue due to staffing shortages. People can’t work if they are sick…COVID or not. And that’s precisely one of the reasons for the shortened testing window and the turning away of cruise ship passengers. If the whole territory is sick, (AGAIN, COVID or otherwise), there are no boats to charter, no restaurants to eat at, no one to clean your villa, etc.

The goal is, and has always been, to keep our doors as open as possible and to balance lives and livelihoods. The lost revenue to villa rentals and boat charter agencies is tough, because it is directly related to positive test results (or lack of testing resources!) on a case by case basis. But, it is effectively, seemingly, keeping more cases out of the territory in an attempt to keep our businesses working. It truly is a double edged sword…I was up most of the night last night pondering all of this.

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If you are reading this, and you were unable to make your travels happen, I extend my sincerest condolences. I have family and friends visiting at the end of the month and am going through similar freak out modes with them about their tests (Selfishly, I want my people here!!!). My advice to them, and to you, is this. LAY LOW for a week or so before your trip! I understand not everyone can do that. Kids are in school, people have to go to work, etc. But, maybe cut out the dinner dates, the grocery trips, the extracurriculars that you can in order to keep yourselves healthy and get on that flight to Love City!

35 thoughts on “COVID on St. John- Last Minute Cancellations and Restaurant Closures”

  1. It is time to ease these draconian restrictions. St. John already has Covid, so preventing people from travelling to the island without the fig leaf of a recent negative test AND being fully vaccinated is a waste of effort and causing colossal economic losses.
    If St. John had somehow remained Covid-free after two years one could imagine such restrictions.
    The time for these restrictions is over.

    • Stay wherever you call home … the island is better without you. The island does not have the infrastructure to deal with this.

    • Colossal economic losses? STJ is packed to the gills! Town is too crowded to enjoy a night out in either a restaurant or bar, the shelves in Starfish market are half empty at all times because there isn’t enough storage space to adequately store stock, and the beaches are wall to wall tourists…
      And this overcrowding has been non-stop for about a year now.
      This past summer we had weekly blackouts (some up to 13 hours long!) because the electric grid can’t handle the air conditioners in rental villas running all day and all night long.

      With regard to Covid; the Myrah Keating clinic has been operating out of trailers since Hurricane Irma in 2017. There are many senior citizens on STJ, and any spike in cases could very well have disastrous repercussions on that community.
      So…sorry if you’re inconvenienced by having to show a negative covid test before you come to STJ as a guest. It’s a small price to pay and the life you save may be mine.

    • It has to be PCR, and if coming by air from the US it has to be taken within 1 day of travel. That’s tough.

      When my husband and I last visited in May, you could show either positive antibodies within the prior 3 months or a negative PCR within 5 days of travel. Our kids (ages 8 and 10) did the PCR testing. We did antibody testing a month before our trip.

  2. Getting the test results within the 72hr window is almost impossible right now.
    That being said we were already infected weeks ago, quarantined and cleared and could still show positive for months. We have letters from the doctors clearing us as well.
    How do you get around that??

    Waiting for results,

    Norman in Fish Bay

    • We are in the same boat as we are infected now. We are supposed to arrive on fhe 27th. Would you let me know how yours works out?

  3. You’ll likely see a lull in visitors through mid-month as many will be unable to rearrange scheduled tests and secure testing & results within a three day window. Rapid tests are VERY difficult to schedule and typically PCR results are 3 -4 days now (thus eliminated for travel to USVI). Realistically, if you can’t get a Rapid Test, forget about that trip. Facing delayed PCR results, my party scrambled today and found Rapid available at our airport. $400 lighter we are now uploaded into the Travel Portal and expect to arrive on-time this Sunday. I feel very bad for others who are not as fortunate.

  4. Thanks for these updates, I have also been reading Facebook and there are good updates. I’m due to come to the island at the end of February, gingers crossed.

  5. Glad to hear I’m not the only person freaking out about gettin tested on Tuesday, getting results and sending them to the USVI portal and waiting for a certificate that we are free to travel there by Friday!

  6. Can’t wait to be there next month…. hopefully eased by then! Thank you for all of your great STJ insights!

    “Draconian measures”?! ….relax bud. Head over to the Qanon forum.

  7. We have a group of 8 scheduled to arrive January 19. Very anxious about the continuing rise in cases. Thanks for the update.

  8. Thank you Hillary for these updates. I just received my home rapid test kit(s) that are approved by CDC / USVI and certified via a video of me taking the test while a medical professional is watching. I found a link to the test kits on the American Airlines COVID info page. That is the only way my family and I can be sure we are tested within the 72 hour time frame. Cannot wait to arrive on the 1/23 with our masks ON!

  9. This such a great service thank you for keeping us updated. Feels like a nice balance of caution and at the same time avoiding panic. It’s so painful not to be able to visit St. John because of the virus.

  10. We are currently vacationing in Coral Bay. We arrived Jan 6th. We basically quarantined 2 weeks prior to testing and had to scramble to schedule a rapid antigen test (and pay out of pocket-$190 for 2). To say the week leading up to departure was stressful is an understatement. So glad we don’t need to test to get back home next week. Thanks for the updates on restaurants. We plan to visit Miss Lucy’s once reopened!

  11. With regards to refunds for Covid testing, we make it clear there will be no refunds outside of the normal parameters. We make a huge effort to educate our guest on trip insurance they can buy and beg them to get it. Like the vaccine, if they don’t get insurance they pay the consequences.

  12. PCR in my area (north of Baltimore, MD) has 3-7 day window for results, and many centers that previously offered PCR now do not. Also difficult to get rapid test, many test centers that previously offered Rapid Antigen test have suspended the option for travel requests, and you must present with symptoms to be tested. Getting an appointment for a test presently almost as hard as getting one of the early vaccine appointments. Ordered some of the Binax tests and they will be our last resort if we can succeed in having them accepted on the portal.

  13. Enjoy reading your posts. What is the best website to go to just before we are due to land? Do we have to get a hospital test site or can we do an at home quick test?

  14. Unfortunately, we are one of the groups that had to cancel. We tested positive with little to no cold symptoms, Sunday before travel tues. So disappointing and an expensive lesson. I would like to reschedule but also fear the continued positive test results. Not sure what to do, but unwilling to take a chance on scheduling without a remedy to a positive test months after infection. Definitely missing St John!

  15. I know we need negative test to travel from MN to USVI. We are planning to travel from St. Thomas to St. John and then fly from St. Thomas to St. Croix 10 days later. Will we need ant testing traveling within the USVI?

    Please advise. Thanks for the info and we have booed a day sail with you while on St. John!

  16. Maybe if the jitney drivers enforced the rules especially wearing masks and the police took mask wearing seriously the Covid rate would be down. This is why it’s spreading rapidly!!! I was just on the island.

  17. Both my mother and I were positive for covid over 10 days ago. We are clear by CDC guidelines and are not symptomatic.

    As per the recommendation on the blog we uploaded our positive PCR tests together with a letter from our family physician clearing us to travel.

    Unfortunately, we got a red code from the USVI authorities stating:

    “ Travelers who have been diagnosed previously with COVID-19 are required to provide a negative PCR result. We cannot accept a letter from a physician or other health care provider as a substitute for a COVID-19 test result.”

    We are now scrambling to get a rapid test (hoping it will be negative and accepted because the feedback clearly states PCR). Supposed to travel tomorrow morning. Getting super anxious!

  18. These ARE scary times. Your practical and down to earth observations, guidance and advice are very much appreciated. We are headed to Cinnamon Bay Campground March 2 and probably will go NOWHERE the two weeks prior, except to get tested within the three day window.

  19. The portal still says this: test taken and results received with 3 days of travel to USVI. I’m confused by Michele’s comment from January 8 at 7:37a.m.

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