After low numbers during the last half of March, COVID-19 infections have increased this week, with 51 cases in the territory and a 2.41 positivity rate for seven days, compared to 27 cases on March 22.
Justa Encarnacion, commissioner of V.I. Health, announced the latest coronavirus statistics Monday at the weekly Government House press briefing. St. Thomas now has the highest count with 25, and as of Monday, St. Croix had 18 COVID cases, and there were eight on St. John. No one is hospitalized with the virus in the territory.
Early last week, there was a breakout at the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School that closed the school. Encarnacion said there were four cases initially that led to testing staff, faculty, and all 500 students over the weekend and on Monday. Isolation and contact tracing are being conducted, but there were no final case numbers yet. The commissioner thanked the nurses from eight area schools who helped with testing.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed, Encarnacion said there is no doubt that the latest variant, BA.2, is responsible for some of the cases. People must continue to be vigilant to prevent becoming infected, she added.
The second booster is available now for people over the age of 50 and those with underlying conditions who had their last shot at least four months ago. Anyone wishing to get any of the shots should make an appointment online at www.covid19usvi.com or call 340-777-8227.
The vaccination centers are Charles Harwood Clinic on St. Croix and Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas, Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. On St. John, testing and vaccines are available Wednesdays at the Port Authority gravel lot.
“Our highest priority remains getting each of you vaccinated and boosted,” she said.
Encarnacion announced there is rapid treatment available now at the long-term residential facilities and the Bureau of Corrections. Anyone diagnosed with COVID will receive antiviral treatment right away.
In response to a question, the Health commissioner said the vaccination rate for the territory is 11.88 percent for children from 5 to 11 years old, 61.96 percent for those 12 and older, 64.25 percent for 18 years and older, and 85.90 percent for people over 65 years of age.
Richard Motta, Government House communications director, gave updates in several areas, including the governor’s meeting with the U.S. Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Marcia Fudge on Friday. He said they talked about the territory’s housing needs, and she said the FEMA funding for repairing the territory’s infrastructure should be spent with “urgency.”
Motta announced that all of the V.I. Human Services’ senior recreational centers have been reopened after closing due to COVID.
Motta also congratulated Aliyah Boston from St. Thomas, whose team, the South Carolina Gamecocks, won the NCAA basketball championship on Sunday. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Housing Parks and Recreation Commissioner Calvert White attended the final game. Motta said that based on the population, the Virgin Islands has more than its share of professional athletes.
“Aliyah’s success and the success of the countless Virgin Islands athletes and those who have come before Aliyah, I think, prove that we are not just the most diverse 87,000 people, but we are also the most talented, as well,” he said.
Motta and Encarnacion both spoke about and extended condolences to the family of Eugene “Doc” Petersen, a veterinarian and beloved musician on St. Croix, about his sudden death last week. Motta said Petersen guided him into his career in public service.