Looking at the past few months of data, the territory’s COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped from 15 percent in August to 1 percent in October, with the U.S. Virgin Islands now tracking at the bottom of the list for positive cases, just ahead of Maine, according to public health officials.
Speaking at Tuesday’s weekly news briefing, Territorial Laboratory Director Dr. Brent Ellis said looking at the total percentage of positive tests over the number of tests taken, the goal has been to get the territory down to 3 to 5 percent, which was accomplished in the past 30 days. Even better, he announced, is that as of last week, the positivity rate dropped further to 1.6 percent, down from a high in August of 15 percent.
“We’re among the lowest in positivity rates and our cases are staying low,” Ellis said. “That’s in stark contrast to the vast majority of the United States, but in order to keep these cases low, we need to adhere to the guidance that Government House and the Department of Health have put out. We need to social distance, we need to wear masks and we need to follow that guidance because our success depends on us.”
Ellis added Tuesday that the territory also stands to greatly increase its testing capacity through the end of the year. The federal government requires that 2 to 3 percent of the population be tested each month, and while Ellis said the V.I. exceeded that, testing in July and August about 7 percent of the population, the territory will now be able to test approximately 10 percent with the addition of tests for the Health Department and hospitals.
“We had been receiving tests for the DOH and Schneider Regional, about 2,500 a month,” he said. “For October that’s up to 5,000 tests, and then the other tests, between clinics and providers, from about 4,800 per month to now 7,200 for October.”
A call to Abbott U.S., makers of the rapid COVID ID Now test, indicated the territory would receive 30,000 additional tests by the end of the year, which adds another 2,000 tests per week, Ellis added.
“So, we’re going from about 7,000 per month a couple of months ago to about 15,000 to 20,000 ID tests,” he said. “I’m really excited about that, and the private labs have also had greater access to tests.”
In a slower month, Health averages about 4,500 tests, while in a higher month, it can jump to about 7,000, Ellis said, adding that the territory is “definitely on the right track and in the right place.”
“We’re hoping to take advantage of this and really increase the frequency for populations that are high-risk and hoping to get our numbers up even higher through the end of the year,” he said.