Virgin Islanders have a choice: they can either social distance, mask up and sanitize their hands frequently, or face more stringent restrictions as the territory battles a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Bryan Jr. said in a short broadcast Friday night.
There are 188 active COVID-19 cases in the territory as of Friday, said Bryan. Nineteen people are hospitalized, all of them unvaccinated, the 7-day rolling positivity rate is hovering near 4 percent, and 35 Virgin Islanders have now died of the virus – three of them in the last 72 hours, he said.
Like much of the U.S., the Virgin Islands is now contending with the more highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that Yale Medicine reports is now responsible for more than 80 percent of new cases on the mainland. The V.I. Health Department confirmed its presence in the territory on July 21 after sending virus samples for sequencing. It is also believed responsible for the alarming surge in the neighboring British Virgin Islands, where there were 1,604 active cases as of July 20 and 25 deaths – all but one of them in the last month.
“With the presence of the variant has come the recent surge here that we are experiencing in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Bryan. “Like most governors around the nation, I am very reluctant to roll back the progress we have made in returning to some semblance of normalcy in our daily activities. However, this is a matter of life and death,” he said.
“The only way we can avoid a return to the prior restrictions is if we can exercise true and real individual responsibility. In this fight, we are all guardians of the public health and safety of our community so we each must do our part,” said Bryan.
“As we head into the weekend you need to avoid mass gatherings. That means the parties, that means the congregating on the beaches, congregating on the boardwalks, the clubs and other meeting places like Magens Bay tramps,” said Bryan, referring to a recent early morning party there that Facebook commenters likened to J’ouvert.
The governor appealed to Virgin Islanders to “do the simple things,” such as masking and frequent hand washing, but especially social distancing. “Stop allowing strangers into your personal space. Stop going into the personal space of strangers,” he said.
Bryan said he canceled all his personal appearances for the weekend “out an abundance of caution,” and urged people to get vaccinated.
A total of 38,220 Virgin Islanders are currently vaccinated, said Bryan, but more need to join that demographic to bolster the territory’s chance at achieving community immunity and ending the opportunity for new, more deadly variants to form.
“It makes it more difficult for you to become infected, and if you become infected, it makes it less likely for you to become ill, and if you don’t become ill, you certainly won’t die from the virus,” said Bryan. “Protect your loved ones. Protect your families. Get the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Anyone 12 and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine by walking into any of the government’s Community Vaccination Centers, by calling 340-777-8227, or by scheduling yourself online.
St. Croix’s Community Vaccination Center is located at the Nissan Center, which is in La Grande Princesse, adjacent to the Honda Dealership and The Paint Shop, on the same side of the street as Food Town.
On St. Thomas, the Community Vaccination Center is located at the Community Health Clinic on the second floor at the Schneider Regional Medical Center.