While the U.S. is now welcoming fully vaccinated visitors from other countries, travelers to the U.S. Virgin Islands still must provide a negative COVID test or a USVI vaccination card “for the foreseeable future,” Gov. Albert Bryan said Monday.
As part of the Monday government briefing, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion announced COVID-19 statistics and said as of Monday afternoon there were 90 active coronavirus cases in the territory. Again, St. Croix had the most infections with 83, St. Thomas had eight and there were three cases on St. John. The infection positivity rate increased from 1.6 percent to 2.7 percent in the last week and 83 people in the territory have perished from the virus.
The Juan F. Luis Hospital had three inpatients with COVID Monday afternoon, one on a ventilator. Schneider Regional Medical Center had one patient and no one vented.
Encarnacion said the Health Department had doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children from five to 11 years of age. Around 35 children have already received a vaccination, which is one-half of the adult dose and another two weeks later.
With schools planning to resume in-person education in January, the commissioner stressed the importance of children, parents and school staff being vaccinated.
“Make the decision to vaccinate yourselves and your children in anticipation of the reopening of in-person school. As more children become vaccinated, we will see less COVID-19 cases among children and even among school faculty and staff. This will keep schools open and learning can continue without interruption,” she said.
During the weekly briefing, Bryan talked about the upcoming tourist season. Last week, he greeted the newest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Apex and plans to meet with other tourism partners in the near future. He said the territory will face new competition this year from other Caribbean islands.
Last year, the Virgin Islands was the only place to visit as other countries shut down their borders because of the pandemic. In response to a question, Bryan said the Health Department may accept proof of vaccination from other locations in 30 days or so. Currently, travelers to the territory must produce a PCR or antigens test or have been vaccinated in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To “ensure that our tourism season is a good one,” and “keep competitive” Bryan will meet with American Airlines to discuss the flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix and a direct flight from New York. He said he recently spoke to the V.I. Yacht Charter Show about the benefits of doing business in the territory.
Bryan also talked about federal funding coming into the territory because of the pandemic and the infrastructure bill that passed last week in Washington. All states and territories will receive money to rebuild and supplies and professional services will become scarcer and more expensive, he pointed out.
Because he is worried about getting out in front, the governor said he will visit Jacksonville, Florida next week, with several commissioners, to talk to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He wants to discuss plans and permits the federal agency requires for rebuilding infrastructure, especially marine projects.
Dredging all three of the territory’s harbors, flooding mitigation around the territory, and marina work on St. John and Water Island will be the main topics. The Army Corps will have oversight of all these projects.
The governor also announced the completion of public housing on St. Thomas and reminded government workers to register at www.dopusvi.org for the eight percent refund, deducted from employees’ pay in 2008 to shore up the government, that will be disbursed beginning next week.