Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. is considering stricter measures for dealing with the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he said Monday at the weekly Government House news update.
“My greatest concern during this time has been having an already fragile healthcare system overwhelmed by the response to the COVID virus,” he said. “Today our worst fears are materializing.”
Bryan is referring to the continued increase in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 cases, which Monday afternoon stood at 29 people in the territory. There are 23 patients hospitalized at the Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix and six hospitalized at the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.
Out of the 23 patients on St. Croix, five are on ventilators. Territorywide, the number of fatalities is up to 39 people since the pandemic began.
Every COVID-19 death within the territory has been a person who had not been vaccinated against the disease.
“We are at a serious turning point,” said Bryan. “This debate about whether to take the vaccine is not worth your health, and it’s not worth your safety.”
Bryan said that his administration believes in civil liberties, but it may get to the point where more serious measures will have to be in place.
“We have been continuously right about our decision making. Through the last year and a half, time and time again we chose right,” he said. “I must also face the grave truth that as a leader I have to make decisions that are for the betterment of the entire community over those individual civil rights.”
Bryan said the time is coming that the USVI will have to make such a decision.
“It’s not about your safety alone, but the safety of those you live, work and commune with. We can get there with your cooperation without drawing a line in the sand between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” he said.
If it were to come to the point where Bryan will have to take firmer measures, he said it will come in an executive order requiring every government employee or new employee to get vaccinated or provide a weekly COVID test. Bryan said there are currently 9,000 government employees, and that’s as far as they will be able to go. This will not apply to private businesses. However, Bryan said, he has heard concerns from businesses that are losing a lot of money, employee time and personnel because of refusals to take the vaccine.
“Seatbelts don’t stop you from dying, they just prevent the high incidence that you will. They lower your chances to be severely injured; it keeps you safe in the vehicle instead of being projected. It’s the same thing with the vaccine. We put on our seatbelts every day. Put on your seatbelt, and get vaccinated,” Bryan said.
Bryan also reminded the community that the social distancing rule, which mandates that people remain six feet apart if possible, remains in effect. A few other reminders included:
– A limit on mass gatherings of more than 100 people in a single space. Restrictions against group gatherings, picnics, parties, camping and disc jockey equipment or bands at the beach. Restrictions for cooking, grilling, and barbecuing at the beach.
– Restriction on the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. and a requirement for bars and restaurants to close by midnight.
– While in the bar or restaurant establishment patrons must sit at least 4 feet apart and must wear their mask when not seated, eating or drinking.
– In-house music which includes live music and disc jockeys as entertainment are allowed in licensed establishments, but no dancing.
Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis updated the week’s COVID statistics on behalf of Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion. As of Monday, there were 255 active cases of COVID-19 in the territory, 95 on St. Croix, 156 on St. Thomas and four on St. John. As Bryan said earlier, 23 patients were hospitalized at the Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix and six patients at the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas. This week’s positivity rate is at 4.7 percent.
Ellis also confirmed that there had been two fatalities over the weekend. A 60-year-old man on St. Thomas and an 84-year-old woman on St. Croix.
“That number continues to increase and is an indication of the surge and the new positive cases throughout the Virgin Islands,” Ellis said.
Anyone 12 years and older can get the vaccine. To make an appointment call 340-777-VACS (8227) or schedule online at www.COVID19usvi.com/vaccines. Suspected cases can be reported by calling 340-712-6299 for St. Croix or 340-776-1519 for St. Thomas and St. John.
Vaccine Lottery Winners
Virgin Islands Lottery Director Raymond Williams announced the winners of Monday’s drawing for the Vaccine Lottery. Seeraj Rajkumar from the St. Croix District and Lana Estrill from St. Thomas/St. John District were named this week’s winners. Drawings will be held for seven more weeks with fully vaccinated individuals able to win as much as $100,000.
The school-based drawing is still open for fully-vaccinated school faculty members or staff and is set for Aug. 9. Those eligible can register at the lottery website.
Free COVID Testing Sites
St. Croix – Charles Harwood Complex from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday.
St. Thomas – Home Depot Parking Lot from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Lionel Roberts Stadium from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday.
St. John – The V.I. Port Authority Gravel Yard from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday.