During his weekly briefing on Monday, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. issued new mandates in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the territory, including limiting funerals to groups of 10, closures of restaurants that don’t comply with the executive orders, confiscating boats that engage in “rafting” or tying up together and fines for those caught not wearing a mask in places where it is required.
In response to widespread concerns and rumors about travelers spreading the illness, Bryan also said that of the three groups of COVID-19 cases, travelers comprise the fewest number of positive infections with 69, while community spread accounts for 145 cases and 268 are attributed to close contact with someone positive for the virus.
“In this pandemic, we cannot afford to go on hunches. We must let the data be the guide,” Bryan said. “Following the data, we know that our main vulnerability for the spread of this virus is at social events occurring in our community, where individuals are not adhering to the guidelines issued by the CDC and the Department of Health.”
To curb the spread of the virus in the territory, Governor Bryan instituted these new mandates:
All funerals or memorials are limited to immediate family members only and no more than 10 family members at any one time.
Enforcement officers will be strictly enforcing all applicable guidelines to operations of restaurants during COVID-19. Any violators will be subject to closure for 30 days and fines.
There shall be no “rafting” (boats tying up together) in any V.I. bays or anchorages. All vessels must be 12 feet apart at all times, except in the case of a medical emergency. No vessels may anchor in any designated swimming area. Violations can result in a fine of up to $10,000 per incident and possible government seizure of your property.
Violators will be subject to a fine of $50 for the first offense and $100 for each additional offense.
Bryan said the COVID-19 spread currently is worst in the St. Thomas-St. John District, where there are almost 100 active cases on St. Thomas alone. Unlike on St. Croix, where it was possible to trace the nexus of the virus spread at the Limetree Bay facility, the Department of Health officials are unable to determine a “ground zero,” and the place where the spread is occurring is not at all obvious, he said.
“We cannot continue to have a policy where all the innocent suffer for the few guilty. We will be enforcing these mandates beginning today, and we will be unforgiving,” Bryan said. “No exceptions. We will fine you, confiscate your boat and close your business if we must. This pandemic is not going away any time soon, and we must adapt to life around it.”
As of Monday, the Department of Labor has issued 28,448 unemployment checks totaling $21,453,946.
Labor also has issued 23,647 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments totaling $36,369,000.
The department has begun the distribution of unemployment compensation for self-employed individuals, independent contractors and other workers who ordinarily are ineligible for unemployment and has issued 15 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance checks totaling $34,518.
The Department of Labor COVID-19 hotline is 1-877-374-0356.
As of Tuesday night, the government was tracking 162 active cases. At that time, 11,444 Virgin Islanders had been tested, which is well over 10 percent of the territory’s population. Of those, 10,778 tested negative and 639 have tested positive. There were 63 new positive tests since Monday. There have been nine fatalities.
At the time of Monday’s press conference, two COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, with one on a ventilator, at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
Six COVID-19 patients, with two on a ventilator, were hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.