Two of the three remaining major agriculture fairs in the Virgin Islands have postponed their dates based on consideration for the spike in COVID-19 numbers.
Organized for 24 years, We Grow Food, Inc. usually holds the annual Bordeaux Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Vegan Food Fair, also known as the Bordeaux Fair, during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.
“We’re pushing it back until further notice because of the rising numbers of the Covid cases. We want to follow the protocol and keep everyone safe for both the public and the farmers themselves,” said Elridge “Sparks” Thomas, president of We Grow Food, Inc.
Thomas said, “some new dates have been suggested, but we are still currently undecided as to when the fair will be rescheduled.” When asked how long that decision might take, he said, “We will wait out another month or two.”
While they wait, the farmers will continue their monthly markets on the second and last Sundays at the Bordeaux Farmers’ Market and hold meetings starting with a welcome meeting at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 16, to meet and greet the new Agriculture Deputy Commissioner, Riise Richards.
Usually held during Presidents Day weekend, the 50th Annual Agriculture and Food Fair of the Virgin Islands, coined AgriFest, is now scheduled for May 28, 29, and 30, according to their press release. The 2022 fair has also been postponed by the Agriculture and Food Fair board of directors due to the ongoing uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recently discovered new variant.
“The Board would like our 50th Jubilee to be celebrated in grand fashion, keeping the safety and wellbeing of the Virgin Islands community in mind. We anticipate the fair can be safely executed in May 2022, in a manner that truly represents our golden jubilee,” they stated in their press release.
AgriFest vendor applications will be available beginning Feb. 1.
To better inform anyone intending on organizing events so that they can know and follow the correct protocols, the Division of Environmental Health Inspection shared important details to help clarify the Department of Health expectations regarding events. This is a reminder that this is a fluid situation depending on the COVID-19 situation in the territory and worldwide.
“The first thing event planners need to do is plan their event around the stipulations of the Executive Orders. This will act as a guide for them to have a higher chance of approval. For example, when you visit The Special Event Request Form webpage, the “Guidance for All Parties/Gatherings/Events” is available by scrolling below the form,” said Director Wanson Harris of the DOH Division of Environmental Health.
Harris also stated that We Grow Food, Inc. and many other event organizers decided to postpone their events due to the surge.
All regulations come from Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s Executive Orders. E.O. 31 is the most recent, including event guidance, and it refers back to the 28th and 21st orders. The event guidance is a mixture of the E.O. regulations, Public Health Orders, and the Mitigation Team’s guidance.
The first step for approval is submitting a Special Events Request Form. In addition, someone must be responsible for ensuring the guidance in this document and your COVID-19 Safety Plan are followed throughout the event.
As of Aug. 13, the limit on mass gatherings is 50 people and requires approval from DOH, but all gatherings of less than 50 people also require approval from the DOH. The DOH will only approve events with more than 50 attendees as “all vaccinated events.
As per Bryan’s Executive Orders, DOH will only approve events with more than 50 attendees as “all vaccinated” events. DOH may approve mass gatherings of up to 250 persons on a case-by-case basis.
DOH may grant conditional approval contingent on the verification of the vaccination status of the attendees. However, before full approval, DOH will verify that everyone attending the event is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (guests, staff, organizers, artists, hosts, volunteers, everyone).
The event verification process includes submitting an attendance list (Excel file) with the names and birthdates of the people who received a COVID-19 vaccine in the territory and a separate list of the names of those vaccinated elsewhere. The latest time to submit an attendance list is five business days before the event. Multiple lists of the guests who were vaccinated within the territory are no longer needed. Event organizers need only to send one list five days prior to the event at the latest.
To ensure enough room for social distancing, all events must be at places where the number of guests is less than or equal to 75 percent of the pre-COVID-19 capacity set by the V.I. Fire Service.
Finally, complete event applications are required no later than two weeks prior to the event. For the full details, the Special Event Request Form can be found at www.covid19usvi.com in the “for event planners” section.
Related to compliance and enforcement, the COVID-19 Task Force has the right to conduct inspections. If found to be out of compliance, a “Cease and Desist” will be issued.
As COVID-19 is an evolving situation, the Special Event Request Form and Guidance are subject to change. Event planners are encouraged to bookmark the page and review the form and guidance each time they plan an event.
Regarding assistance with oversight and enforcement in terms of checking people for vaccination records, COVID testing, or assisting with social distancing, event planners can ask for assistance and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In addition, event planners are expected to follow the guidelines and regulations, including staffing security and other people, to ensure that the event remains in compliance.
“Remember, COVID-19 safety practices during your events keep the whole community safe,” said Harris.
Visit www.covid19usvi.com and click on the “For event planners” button.