Several V.I. Police Department personnel have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past weeks, and the police department closed Zone A Command in Charlotte Amalie for comprehensive cleaning over the past weekend.
“Our officers are on the front line and the nature of their job requires interaction with the public,” department officials said in a statement released by VIPD spokesman Toby Derima.
“In spite of recommended best practices, several VIPD personnel have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past weeks. Along with the Department of Health, we have provided support to our sworn and non-sworn employees,” the statement says.
The Records Bureau office in that building was to open Monday but will remain closed until further notice. Requests will continue to be processed online.
“We have provided PPEs and encourage consistent engagement in best practices to minimize exposure and transmittal. All affected areas have been treated and employees will continue to work out of their assigned workplace,” Derima said when reached for comment
While the virus only lives a few hours outside of the body, Derima said the “lobby of the Records Bureau in St. Thomas shares the same space that Zone A Command uses. In an abundance of caution, and to ensure that our customers and employees are protected, we will keep the Records Bureau closed until further notice.”
In August, 20 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Complex – St. Thomas jail – according to the Bureau of Corrections. The St. Croix jail has not had a confirmed case but not everyone there has been tested.
The Queen Louise Home for the Aged saw at least 16 cases of the illness among staff and residents, losing four elderly residents in a single week last month.
The highly contagious virus spreads very fast in confined living spaces such as jails and nursing homes.
As of July 13, the territory, with a population of about 100,000, had tested 18,354 residents and 1,221 were confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Department of Health’s updated COVID-19 report issued on Sunday.
The real number of cases is higher, as the virus is spreading in the community and in many cases, the source of infection cannot be identified. Nineteen Virgin Islanders have officially died from the illness, although that does not count at least one University of the Virgin Islands employee who left the territory while ill and died in Kentucky soon after. Studies suggest the real fatality counts are at least a little higher than the official count and the best measure of the illness’s real impact is to compare monthly death counts from year to year and measure “excess” fatalities above the expected norm.
A recent New York Times article outlines the excess deaths versus the official COVID-19 deaths in multiple nations, showing a difference of 3 percent in Austria and Finland to as high as 147 percent in Peru. Some countries, like Denmark, show no difference. The U.S. as a whole shows 19 percent more “excess” fatalities than the official COVID-19 numbers.
The USVI saw one new case from Saturday to Sunday, three since Friday and 30 over the past seven days.
The seven-day rolling average of positive tests shows the number of new cases has plateaued, with a low, steady trickle, since the governor reimposed restrictions on businesses and travel in late August.
St. Thomas continues to see more cases than St. Croix, which has an equivalent population size, and more than smaller, neighboring St. John, which has less than 10 percent the number of residents as St. Thomas.