Governor Albert Bryan Jr. delivered several bits of optimistic news today. In no particular order (although we are certain you will have your favorites):
Last week, we shared the fantastic news that our positivity rate was under 1% (you can read about that here), and although we have seen an increase in the number of guests arriving at our airports, our Covid positivity rate continues to remain under 1% for the second week in a row!
There are currently three active cases of COVID-19 on St. John, with only 16 total positive cases in the territory. As such, Governor Bryan expressed his optimism about lifting some of the restrictions that have been in place for the past few months, and said we will see several changes in the 18th Executive Order issued this week, adding that “We are slowly getting there, but we can’t get there without your cooperation.”
Hospitals and medical facilities
Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated our territory’s hospitals and medical facilities that were already in need of some TLC. After receiving almost 13 million in grant funding for the repairs – and in some cases, entire rebuilds – our Governor announced that the designers have been selected for the various projects, and the design phase – estimated to take 6 to 18 months – will soon commence. The Myrah Keating Medical Center on St. John was granted 1.5 million of the funds for the rebuild.
The Governor’s goal is to ensure that our residents and our visitors ultimately receive any and all medical care they may need while in the territory.
Several months ago, the Governor issued an order stating that all restaurants must suspend the use of regular dining ware, and only disposable glasses, plates, silverware, and napkins were allowed until further notice. In August, the Department of Health relaxed this restriction for restaurants that could prove they were able to adequately sanitize their dining ware. Over the following weeks, most of the restaurant owners and managers on St. John were granted a special use permit, allowing them an exception to the disposable mandate.
Today, the Governor announced that as of Wednesday, October 14, 2020, all restaurants are allowed to make the switch back to regular dining ware. This is welcomed news for the restaurant owners and staff, the patrons, and the environment!
Churches and Houses of Worship
Effective immediately, churches and houses of worship are allowed to accommodate 50% of their capacity, or a maximum 100 persons, whichever is less. This is an increase from the previous 50-person maximum mandate.
Starting next month on November 9, 2020, mass gatherings will increase to 50% of the capacity, with no more than 100 persons for indoor and outdoor activities.
(Note: For these purposes, and for the sake of clarity, a bar is defined as the overall establishment, and not the bar counter).
Last but certainly not least, effective November 9, 2020, all bars and nightclubs with the capacity to offer table service will be allowed to reopen! Previously, bars that did not serve food were ordered closed. However, all of our bars are allowed to reopen as long as they can provide table service in lieu of counter service. Per the Governor’s statement at the press conference, restaurant and bar guests must be seated at a table, served by wait staff, and must not be allowed to stand around the bar counter, order from the bar, or congregate around the bar or outside of the venue. Seated patrons may order food, alcohol, or both, as long as they are seated at a designated table with adequate social distancing. Restaurants with bars are no longer mandated to sell and serve food simultaneously with alcoholic beverages.
Live Music and DJs
The atmosphere at a bar is complete with the addition of live music. When the bars reopen, live music and DJs will be allowed in licensed establishments until midnight.
I think most would agree this is exciting news, and indicative of the progression to our ‘new normal’. If we all continue to do our part, and if our Covid-19 positivity rate remains low, the Governor anticipates lifting more of our restrictions over the coming weeks!