Legionnaires Disease Detected in the Territory and COVID Numbers Fall Again

Assistant Health Commissioner Reuben Molloy talks about COVID at the Government House press briefing Monday. (Screenshot)

COVID-19 cases continue to decline from 3,395 on Jan. 7 to 473 on Feb. 1 and finally to 324 on Feb. 7, but at the weekly Government House Briefing Monday residents were alerted to a new health threat – Legionnaires Disease – a type of severe pneumonia.

Only two cases of Legionella have been detected – one on St. Croix and one on St. Thomas. Reuben Molloy, DOH assistant commissioner, did not disclose any other information about the victims or locations, citing privacy issues.

“Legionnaires disease can be a deadly illness if not diagnosed and treated quickly. However, cases are usually isolated. Symptoms may include cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and fever that may lead to pneumonia,” he said.

Legionnaires is not contagious but contracted by breathing in tiny droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria. The bacteria can grow in cisterns, so it’s important to clean and disinfect cisterns regularly. Cleaning shower heads, hot tubs, tank water heaters, and other water tanks that store potable water will decrease the risk, according to the DOH press release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outbreaks of Legionnaires are often associated with large or complex water systems, such as those found in hospitals, hotels, and cruise ships. Sources also include water used for showering cooling towers in large air conditioning systems and decorative fountains.

Molloy also talked about COVID-19 cases in the territory. St. Croix has 211 active cases, there are 89 on St. Thomas, and St. John has 24 cases. Molloy commented that while active cases are down, hospitalizations are high. Juan F. Luis Hospital has 11 coronavirus patients and one is on a ventilator. There are six COVID patients at Schneider Regional Medical Center with two vented. There have been 103 deaths.

The COVID testing schedule has been changed, and tests must be made by appointment. On St. Croix and St. Thomas, tests will be administered daily from 9 a.m. to noon at drive-through locations – at Charles Harwood Complex and Schneider Medical Center. On St. John, tests and vaccines will be given according to the previous schedule. Appointments can be made at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.

Vaccinations will continue to be given free. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 3 p.m. at Cost-U-Less on St. Thomas, and Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m at the Gravel Lot on St. John. On St. Croix, vaccines are available at the Market, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Famers’ Market on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Agricultural Fairgrounds.

Vaccines for children ages five and older (and adults) can be scheduled online at covid19usvi.com/vaccines. The DOH can deliver and administer vaccines to those who are homebound.

Richard Motta, communications chief for Gov. Albert Bryan, said during the briefing that children aged 5-17 are eligible for a $250 gift card, if they haven’t already received one, when they receive the second shot by March 18.

Motta also said travel restrictions have been relaxed to pre-Omicron protocols. Either a negative test within five days or proof of being vaccinated in the U.S.V.I will be accepted in the territory.

The governor will sign legislation Tuesday that allows the administration to refinance rum cover over bonds to shore up the Government Employees Retirement System, Motta said.