St. John & the Coronavirus

St. John & the Coronavirus 1

I’ve received countless emails regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past few days. People have asked me if they should visit the island or stay away. People have asked about our healthcare system, whether our shelves are stocked. I by no means have all the answers. Frankly, I have very few answers. Here is what I do know.

St. John has a fragile health care system on a good day. We have a large number of elderly residents on St. John, and, as you know, they are the most vulnerable population right now. We need to protect them and keep them healthy.

The government announced it has six negative pressure rooms at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas in addition to quarantined areas in its emergency room. The VI Consortium reported that training has occurred at Schneider and also at Myrah Keating, our 24-hour clinic here on St. John.

The Governor, who oversees St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, announced last night that one person in the US Virgin Islands had tested positive for COVID-19. It is believed that person is located in St. Croix.

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC cruise lines have ceased operations for the next 30 days. These cruise lines regularly dock in St. Thomas.

I’ve been asked repeatedly whether St. John wants tourists to continue visiting during this time. Truthfully, some people do, and some people do not. The Governor addressed the Territory yesterday morning. He did not mention tourism specifically, and he did not say whether or not people should continue to visit or cancel their trips. I reached out to the Governor and his communications team to get clarification, and have yet to hear back.

Our ports remain open. Our airport and seaports are operating as usual. Our ferries and barges continue to run.

Our restaurants and shops remain open. Our beaches are open. The National Park is open.

Our grocery stores are open. As of yesterday (my last trip to one), the shelves looked normal for a typical Friday. Have I heard stories of people running out to scoop up lots of toilet paper like in the States? Absolutely.

Today’s St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled, although Quiet Mon Pub does intend to have corned beef as planned. Just like in the States, our government is cancelling all mass gathering events in effort to limit the spread of the virus.

I spoke with a friend yesterday who is in the medical field here on St. John, and she stated that St. John does have the ability to obtain testing for COVID-19.

I reached out to numerous friends yesterday who are boat captains, ferry captains, taxi drivers, restaurants owners and shop owners. I reached out to people who were born and raised here, and people who chose to make St. John their home. I asked all of them if they planned on closing. I asked if they were doing anything differently these days. The response from all was they they will continue business as usual but that they are cleaning more now than ever. The ferry captain, for example, said he had hired two new people specifically to clean and disinfect the ferry between trips.

While having lunch at Mongoose Junction yesterday, I saw several business owners and employees disinfecting doors and windows. I saw bottles of hand sanitizer in many businesses.

Tourism is the backbone of economy. Should you cancel our trip, I ask that you return in the future. Should you choose to come, please know that St. John is open and you will be welcomed.

 

 

40 thoughts on “St. John & the Coronavirus”

  1. So happy to hear. We can’t wait to return in April after nearly 3 years of being away. I cry every time I step out on that dock from the ferry because I love it so. I would hate to miss this trip and I look forward to seeing all the friendly faces. ❤️

  2. Thanks for the update, Jen. Still hoping we can make it down April 3 for 10 days. We’re more worried about traveling thru airports than anything. Do you know if local rental companies are working with renters to change dates if needed?

  3. I sure hope we can come at the end of June. We had to cancel another trip in 2018 due to the hurricane. We are from CT too and we absolutely love St John and all the awesome people. Our fingers are crossed.

  4. Our daughter lives on St. John and I appreciate this update. We visited her in Feb. and St.John is truly the most beautiful island I’ve ever been on. We hope to come back again soon!

  5. We are scheduled for a mid June trip. So, your continuing this flow of information on Covid-19 and the health care facilities is so very much appreciated. We know your information can be trusted. Thank you! ☀️

  6. Thank you for the update! Unfortunately we were to be there tomorrow and had to cancel at the last minute. Stay healthy St. John and see you in July!

  7. Thank you for all of your information we are coming the 27th healthy and look forward to enjoying the island as always

    • Please reschedule at this time. St. John and it’s residents are not equipped to deal with this pandemic. The elderly do not need to be exposed to this. In life there comes a time when you have to think about the bigger picture.
      Keeping the residents and this world in Prayer

  8. Thanks, Jenn, this is very helpful. I’ve been visiting STJ just about every year since 1992, so I consider the island my second home and I have plans to come back in mid-April. If the virus spreads rapidly in the states, then I’ll reconsider coming in April. As much as the island needs visitors, it doesn’t need an additional strain on the local healthcare system from travelers. I think all of us who love STJ need to be unselfish and ensure that visitors do not make a potential situation on STJ worse by bringing any coronavirus cases to the VI (symptoms do not show up for many days after being infected), utilizing limited medical facilities, or even adding demand to potential grocery shortages. While delaying a trip will be disappointing, it’s the right thing to do rather than be a potential burden to the people on STJ. So for me, I’ll be monitoring the situation closely and will make my decision whether to come back based upon the situation in the US in the coming weeks.

  9. We visited for three weeks in February and are in the process of booking for July. We are holding off finalizing plans right now. All the information you provide is always so helpful. We love St. John and it’s People and we do have concern not only for ourselves but those living there. Thanks for keeping everyone informed! ❤️

  10. Obviously the health care facilities on all 3 islands are not going to be able to handle any large scale epidemic, they are as prepared as they can be for a small island with underfunded resources. But with over 100,000 residents, most of them living in close proximity to one another the threat of contagion is real and quick to occur.

    The economic stress of this virus will affect the islands for a long time.

  11. My husband & I just returned from STJ where we have a home. Everything was normal and BEAUTIFUL as ever. The fresh air, salt water and wonderful people were rejuvenating and therapeutic!! We love the island and pray there is no negative impact from this unprecedented time. We will be back soon!!

  12. Thank you for the latest information. At present, I am stilling planning n coming late May with friends. I will monitor the situation and hopefully unless all travel is suspended or the island forbids travel to into the islands we are planning to continue with our vacation.

  13. The most important thing here is that we live in reality , does it suck to have our long anticipated vacations cancelled , absolutely ! Is it horrible that as a result of this pandemic that economy’s that rely on the tourism Industry will undergo massive Economic hardship , yes ! Life is about how we deal with all of this
    I started by saying that we need to live in reality and as a resident of the usvi for almost 20 years off and on the unfortunate reality is that our health care system is 3rd world. That actually may be a compliment… last time I was in the hospital hospital in stt ( april 2019) it took a nurse at Schneider regional 11 try’s to put in a basic I.V. I got pissed at her so they Finally they brought in another nurse and she got it on the 4th try, ( every time I’ve needed an iv in the states they get it the first try !!! ) Any qualified / trained health care providers That are on island all do there best but simply do not have the tools to do what they need to do, in the Recent past people have passed away because they were incapable of executing a simple blood transfusion due to lack of equipment, last checked there is not even a full time cardiologist on island !!! Who is the pulmonary specialist to deal with respiratory issues related to this disease??? How many respirators are available on island ???
    The reality of this sucks but we have to live in reality , the people who live here understand and accept the risks that come with living in paradise
    We have recovered strong from irma and maria , we have recovered quickly, the problem here is if this virus spreads on this island the long term effects will be devastating, sometimes we have to sacrifice some things short term to have what we want long term,
    As jen said they can not even get a test , if they can’t even get a test what do you think treatment options would REALISTICALLY look like ???
    Sacrifice this season so we keep our elders safe and healthy and don’t collapse the already fragile system !!!
    Ultimately the choice is yours but decisions need to be made with a mindset of reality …
    It is a known fact amongst locals if you get sick here you are screwed … we have a saying called fly or die
    For a reason
    I will never forget the tourists before irma how they seemed excited , how cool they thought it was and were asking about any good hurricane parties… then they woke up on sept 7th to get a huge reality check !!!
    My philosophy in life is live and let live as long as you are not hurting others
    All I ask is that you think long and hard about If you traveling here will hurt anyone?
    The choice is yours
    The REAL question We need to all be asking is what type of financial support will the government be giving all of us when/ if financial hardship comes ? What is the plan for the worst case scenario ???

    • Agree with a lot of the residents of STJ. We have been going every year and sometimes twice a year since 1991 and we know a lot of residents. We have a trip planned 2nd week of May and will be monitoring situation. We did purchase insurance so hopefully even if flights aren’t restricted we can reschedule our visit if it’s better for the residents of STJ. Praying and thinking of everyone’s health there.

  14. Jenn – You do a wonderful job being the “unofficial” voice of St. John in part because we know we can trust you. Please keep up the good work. It’s definitely appreciated.

  15. With an abundance of caution and heartbreak, we just canceled our March 20th visit to St. John. We have a time-share and had not been in two years due to the damage from Maria. Besides the loss we feel, we are sad for the economic hardship this causes for the vendors on St. John. Hopefully we can reschedule for June.

  16. so i went to spirit air to “book” a flight for $47 there. But no available flights for returning anywhere on the calendar. That is the last thing ppl need is to be stuck

  17. On the bright side, a vacation on St. John can accommodate the social distancing being suggested as good practice. The airfares are enticing and airport traffic is down, so, for some this may be a good opportunity, at least, for some. The most challenging portion would the airport/plane component and that’s the weak link to consider. Last consideration….I’m pretty sure the virus does not do well in that bright and hot sun.

    • Hi Joe, the weak link to consider is the health care situation in the USVI. As a high risk elderly person with no where else to live, it is most important to me to minimize risk on St John. My personal plan is to avoid tourists as much as possible. This will be difficult since I tend to offer assistance with directions, pictures, etc. If visitors do notice the residents seeming less friendly than in the past, it may be due to us trying to stay healthy.

      As Jen stated first up in this blog:
      St. John has a fragile health care system on a good day. We have a large number of elderly residents on St. John, and, as you know, they are the most vulnerable population right now. We need to protect them and keep them healthy.

  18. thank you Jenn as always for such a great and informative post. So glad we were able to be there a few weeks ago before al of this blew up. As in after Irma and Maria, maybe we can start buying gift cards (to use on future trips) and ordering online from our favorite shops and restaurants…

  19. Thank you for this… We are still planning on coming in early May as long as it’s appropriately safe to do so for our family and the local community. We are hopeful, and cannot wait to return to our happiest place on Earth, bringing our boys for the first time ever!

  20. Hopefully villa owners and rental companies will be willing be to re schedule travelers for future date, so travelers will not have to loose their down payments/full payments. That would give more incentive to not coming amidst this catastrophe.

  21. Unfortunately, we had to cancel – but will return as we always do! It’s too dangerous to be in crowds, and we worry about visitors from the mainland who don’t know they are exposed or infected visiting. Thanks for keeping us posted but tell everyone to be careful.Every day, things are closing and I’m afraid in a couple of weeks we may have a national flight ban -if not sooner – Keep close watch of the news online and on TV and follow all healthcare recommendations. Very sad situation for all.

  22. We just cancelled our trip for 3/20. Kids aren’t taking it well, but it seemed the right thing to do for many reasons. We’ll be back soon.

  23. After two days of intense discussions with family members we made the heartbreaking decision to cancel our upcoming trip on 3/21. We have been counting down the weeks since our last trip in March of 2019, but in the end the risk vs the reward was clear, not only to us but for the residents of STJ. The island has had more than its fair share of devastation in recent years and as much as we hate not being able to come and help to restore the islands economy through eating out, shopping, rental cars and such we just couldn’t do it. We’ve been coming to STJ for over 25 years and we will return as soon as possible the same as we did in the summer after Irma. I’ve started canceling our dinner reservations and it’s making me beyond sad. Was Looking forward to trying Zo Zo’s new location, eating Xango, frozen pain killer from Longboard, smoothies from Thomas, Uncle Joes…. so disappointing. But all of these are first world problems considering what is going on with all those who have been affected by this terrible virus. I hope the island will be spared. Be well.

  24. Please do not come to the island. St John does not have the medical facilities to handle an epidemic. Please consider the residents and the elderly. Keeping the island and the world in prayer.

    • We ended up cancelling our trip as well 🙁 We were looking forward to arriving on 3/19 with our kids and some other family to experience the beauty of the islands for their first time 🙁 my husband and i have been there and wanted to share our love of the islands! Our hearts are broken mostly as we know the income is needed there so badly as well! Yet we still need to keep you all safe! We will (and hope others will) donate money to help even if its only enough to help one person its something! We love ya St John and will cya when we can and help sanitize and mops floors or whatever we need to do! Peace and stay safe!!

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