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.