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COVID Update- Cruise Ships, Mask Mandates and Travel Testing

COVID Update- Cruise Ships, Mask Mandates and Travel Testing

Good Morning world!  I watched the Governor’s Press Conference on Monday and, although there are no relevant changes to the policies in place, I thought it might be time for a gentle reminder about the ones that have been rolling for quite some time.  He did have a brief update on rising COVID numbers and cruise travel that I thought to be interesting to share as well.

To start, I want to briefly mention that COVID-19 active cases are pretty high right now with the Governor reporting on Monday that there are seven active cases on St. John, eight on St. Croix and a whopping 111 on St. Thomas!  Those numbers might not seem high in comparison to the national average but it is well above where the territory has been for the past several month as we inch our way into a 4% positivity rate.  We have been holding between 1-2% for some time now.  Five of the individuals on STT are hospitalized and one of those patients is currently on a ventilator.

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Based on the Department of Health’s reports, it seems unclear as to whether or not these new cases are community or travel related, but the Governor is leaning heavily on social distancing, wearing a mask, good hygiene and vaccinations to avoid further spread.  Whether you believe in the virus and the science or not, the policies he has had in place have allowed the territory to stay open and to BOOM with business.  The USVI leads the Caribbean in vaccination distribution, re-opening policies AND tourism numbers.  It has weirdly been an extremely successful year for small businesses and hard working individuals on St. John and the Governor’s policies have allowed for that to date.  So, with all that being said, let’s dig in…

Before you go…

Pre-travel testing for ALL individuals, ages five and up, is still required for entry to the USVI.  There has been no change to this for vaccinated travelers.  Vaccinated or not, you still need to get a test before you fly.  A reprieve for the vaccinated traveler is the antibody test.  Two to three weeks after your second shot, you should test positive for antibodies and that positive test is usable for up to four months for travel to the USVI.

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The following test results are acceptable for travel into the territory:

  • A negative COVID-19 Molecular (PCR) or Antigen (Rapid) test administered within five days of commencement of travel.

OR

  • A positive COVID-19 Antibody test administered within four months of commencement of travel.

You DO NOT need a test to return to the states unless your end destination requires it.  You do not need a test for your layover if that state or territory requires it.

For a full description of how and when to test and how to use the travel portal, read up on this post from March.

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USVI Department of Tourism COVID-19 Guidelines as updated on February 27,2021

I know a lot of that is old news for you avid followers out there, but please bear with me 🙂

The CDC has ADVISED that it is safe for vaccinated individuals to lose the mask.  However, Governor Bryan HAS NOT lifted the territory wide mask mandate.  As our numbers climb, that will likely not happen any time soon.  Even if you are vaccinated you need to mask up in any public space where social distancing is not feasible and in ANY place of business unless you are seated at a food and beverage service establishment.  That includes public transportation, ie ferries, taxis and planes, and the terminals or taxi stands where you wait for them.

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I totally sympathize with all of you who are OVER the masks.  I am too.  But, it is what we gotta do for now so let’s all do our best TOGETHER to make life easier for the poor overworked souls who are tasked with enforcing it.  This is going out to the bar tenders, the taxi drivers, the shop keeps, the ferry captains and all of the service staff here who are now considered “essential” front line employees.

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Service staff on St. John tasked with social distancing and mask monitoring…Let’s all have fun, but let them have some too!

I went into a favorite spot to meet my boyfriend for a drink last night.  The bar tender who is usually on point, cheery and up beat literally had no light left in his eyes.  I asked him what was going on and he mentioned that it has been absolutely brutal these past few weeks and people have been an absolute pain about following the rules.  He also did mention that one happy and compliant guest will keep him light and happy for hours after they are gone.

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These folks are literally just trying to keep their businesses open and keep their jobs while also making all of their guests happy.  Please, please, please…be the guest that keeps them smiling.  Not the one who makes their already chaotic new existence more difficult 🙂  I know the majority of you reading this post are likely the ones who lean towards happy but please share this info with anyone visiting our island for the first time.  We will get through this together!

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Governor Bryan also touched on the new policies rolled out by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.  The international cruise line with high stakes in the Caribbean region had previously announced that, in order to visit the island countries and territories on their roster where the COVID-19 caution flag hangs high, all of their staff and any cruisers aged eighteen and older would have to be fully vaccinated in order to be on board.

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Royal Caribbean staffers take a shot

Recently, the state of Florida has made that impossible for them to implement and the cruise line has reversed the vaccine requirement for passengers.

On May 3, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that would ban any Florida business from mandating that an individual provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to receive services. The Governor approved SB 2006 which enacts section 381.00316-entitled “COVID-19 vaccine documentation” which also applies to all private, non-profit organizations, schools, and state and local government entities in Florida.   – Rumburger-Kirk, May 13, 2021

With many Caribbean Islands leaning heavily towards the vaccinated traveler and Florida being the major port of embarkation for most cruise lines, this new ruling could make cruise travel in the Caribbean difficult for the major cruise line to roll out this month’s scheduled itineraries that include stops in St. Lucia, Barbados and the British Virgin Islands.  The BVI has not yet issued a statement in regards to the new Florida ruling that will disallow Royal Caribbean from requiring vaccinations at embarkation.  But, I’ll keep an eye out and keep you posted!

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Governor Bryan, in response, has sent a letter to the Florida Governor, asking him to reconsider the new legislation in regards to cruise lines.

While I appreciate his (Governor DeSantis) push for freedom and the ability of people to choose, the real issue here is these cruise ships are bringing American tourists to small islands with scarce resources in terms of hotel rooms right now (for possible quarantine needs).  Our hospitals have limited room to bed people, we have limited personnel in terms of  nurses and doctors.  Even moreso in the lesser Caribbean islands, you don’t have the vaccination rate that we do in the Vrigin Islands. – Governor Bryan- June 7, 2021

He has also sent letters to the leaders of other Caribbean islands, asking them to join a united front stating, “We are one Caribbean.”  He is anxious to welcome cruise ships back to the US Virgin Islands but has pressed for a 95% vaccination rate for cruise ships before entry to the territory.

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Will cruise ships return to the USVI this summer?

We shall see where things go from here….I’m not envious of the jobs that our Governor and his team have taken on during this past year.  Can you imagine the burden of balancing lives and livelihoods?  It cannot be an easy undertaking, to say the least!

5 thoughts on “COVID Update- Cruise Ships, Mask Mandates and Travel Testing”

  1. Just a clarification on antibody testing: currently the CDC does NOT recommend antibody testing after vaccination.

    There are many different antibody tests out there. A vaccinated person may still test negative if the test is not testing for the specific type of antibody produced by your vaccine.

    Also note the antibody tests are more expensive and generally not covered by insurance.

    You can read more here:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/resources/antibody-tests-guidelines.html

  2. As always, thanks for keeping us updated on the CoVid front! We appreciate and enjoy your newsletter so much. The great info, island history and beautiful pictures keep us feeling connected to a place we love.

  3. Great Update, well written and certainly valid plea’s and suggestions for keeping things flowing in the USVI (and especially St. John). The workers are doing all they can do to keep things open for people to enjoy and should be supported 100% in the simple requests for patrons to follow the guidelines that will keep St. John prosperous.

  4. Our fully vaccinated family will be visiting St John at the end of JUNE. We are glad to learn the USVI are continuing with strict guidelines. No cruise ships should be allowed unless everyone aboard are vaccinated. Stay Strong St John

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