In a tragic milestone, the territory saw its first confirmed COVID-19 death over the weekend, the Health Department reported Sunday. The report does not say who or where. Health Department officials have said since the outset of the epidemic they will avoid releasing information that may make it possible to identify specific patients out of respect for patient confidentiality. As of Sunday morning, the count of confirmed cases had risen by two cases to a total of 42. Of those, 28 were on St. Thomas, 12 on St. Croix and two on St. John. A total of 266 Virgin Islanders, roughly 0.0026 of the population or a quarter of one percent have been tested. Of those, 206 tests have come back negative and 18 tests are pending. Thirty four people have recovered and one has died. A second person, a UVI employee, has also died, but was not in the territory at the time.
Statistically, so far the territory is faring better than most states and territories, in terms of progression. The 91-DIVOC web project, which collates CDC data, indicates the U.S. Virgin Islands has the lowest rate of spread of any U.S. state or territory, after controlling for population size. Being an isolated island able to restrict access and getting an early start on social distancing when the number of cases was still small may have been factors.
If Virgin Islanders continue to rigorously maintain shelter in place protocols, avoiding going out, not meeting in groups, avoiding contact, maintaining six feet of distance from other people when performing necessary errands, rigorous hand washing for 20 seconds after going out, and so forth, the territory may see cases peak in late April to early May and have a peak hospitalization spike of around 117.
If residents are less rigorous, the disease will spread more, with substantially more people sick, more people requiring hospitalization and more fatalities. Health officials say anyone experiencing symptoms – including a persistent cough, fever and shortness of breath, should self-quarantine and contact the Health Department by telephone at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.
This video helps illustrate how viruses spread: