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.
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. As of Monday, St. Croix had 211 active cases, with 89 on St. Thomas, and 24 on St. John. Molloy said that while active cases are down, hospitalizations are high. Juan F. Luis Hospital had 11 coronavirus patients Monday, with one on a ventilator. There were six COVID patients at Schneider Regional Medical Center, with two vented. There have been 104 deaths — the latest a 68-year-old St. Thomas woman on Monday, according to the Health Department.
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 the Charles Harwood Complex and the Schneider Regional Medical Center, respectively. 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 are free and readily available, Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon 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 also can deliver and administer vaccines to those who are homebound.
Richard Motta, communications chief for Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., said during the briefing that children ages 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 USVI 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.