The Governor’s press conference was a long one today, folks – kudos to anyone who hung in there with me during the live broadcast!
The recent surge of COVID-19 in the US Virgin Islands caught the attention of several stateside media outlets this week. While it is true that we’ve seen an overall increase in cases in the territory, they failed to report that a significant majority are based in St. Croix – specifically within the Limetree Bay Refinery community. On a positive note, over the last few days we have seen a substantial reduction in positive tests. Out of 400 refinery workers tested yesterday, only one was positive!
In furtherance of our effort to minimize exposure of the virus to our residents and guests, on Wednesday, July 15, 2020, the Governor’s travel testing policy went into effect for any states testing at 10% positive or higher for that state. Residents in these target states ages 15 and over must either be tested within five days prior to their arrival into the territory and produce a negative test result or positive antibodies test result, or self-quarantine until test results are received. If you have not been tested, you will be asked to quarantine for 14 days, or the entire duration of your vacation if fewer than 14 days. As of today, two additional states – Arkansas and Louisiana – have been added to the John Hopkins University list:
The Virgin Islands Port Authority issued a statement on their Facebook page clarifying the Governor’s brief mention in a previous press conference that the testing requirement also applies to anyone who has spent a “substantial amount of time” in one of the target states. The Port Authority stated that this restriction does not apply to travelers with layovers in these states but does apply to “passengers who have spent more than seven days in and are traveling from impacted states.”
As we shared earlier today, the Department of Tourism released a phone number to call with travel-related questions regarding the virus. Today, the Governor announced that the department is also launching a website which will feature a FAQ section, as well as allow travelers to upload their test results prior to arriving in the territory. This is fantastic news, as it seems there are more questions than answers about the current policy.
Over the last two days, the Governor has received messages from concerned residents and guests who reported that the guidelines are not being followed at the airport and that arriving passengers were not asked for proof of their place of residence or test results. The Governor admitted there were issues implementing the policy on its first day and asked for our patience while gaps in the program are identified and resolved. He also assured us that the steps we are taking, such as the infrared temperature monitors at the airport, the ‘no mask/no service’ policy, and closing the bars, are assisting in our effort to keep the virus away from the territory.
When questioned about his policy requiring all restaurants to utilize plastic cutlery, plates, and drinking glasses, the Governor’s response was that we don’t have any evidence that these measures are not helping keep the virus rates in check. He said we should all use caution when applying statistics and drawing conclusions therefrom, and that “it isn’t hurting a soul” to require the use of disposable equipment – a statement that is somewhat contentious, especially among the largely environmentally-focused residents and guests of St. John.
The Governor issued a plea for anyone witnessing any violations in the various policies – especially those at our restaurants, such as the requirement to socially distance 6 feet apart, and no more than 6 guests at any table – and asked that if you witness such a violation, please call 911, or DLCA for non-compliant businesses.
As a reminder, anyone who is tested and waiting for their results needs to quarantine at home for 14 days.
If you have any questions, please call the USVI Department of Tourism COVID-19 Travel Hotline at (800) 372-8784