COVID-19

An image from an electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists say this version of the coronavirus has mutated and become more contagious.

The V.I. Health Department is currently tracking 11 active cases of COVID-19, the highest number of active cases in nearly nine weeks.

The number comes as the territory experienced its highest single-day jump in positive cases — from 84 on June 29 to 90 on June 30 — since Health began posting online COVID-19 reports on April 6.

Late Wednesday, Health reported two more positive cases, bringing the total to 92.

Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis said the uptick was “always our anticipation” as the territory eases restrictions and lets in more visitors. However, she added, the goal is to accomplish this reopening “as safely as possible.”

“We should be alarmed as we start to see an upward trend in cases and should remember to abide by the guidance,” she said.

“Wear a mask if outside of your home, or inside businesses or establishments. Limit contact with others to your household members as much as possible, especially if you are elderly or immune compromised and continue to watch our numbers as we are tracking our cases very closely.”

The 11 active cases, which represent individuals who have been diagnosed but have yet to recover, are a stark reminder of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, which has already claimed six lives in the territory.

Of the 92 positive cases, 46 were from St. Croix; 42 on St. Thomas; and four on St. John. So far, 75 have recovered.

In the recent spike of six cases, five were from St. Croix and the other from St. Thomas. Most appear to be travel-related or transmitted via close contact of an infected individual.

Ellis said there is not a significant amount of hospitalized cases right now which indicates the department is “not missing a significant number of our cases.”

“Always with surveillance you know that you never catch every single case,” she said. “We know that what we are catching is enough to capture our trend and properly inform us as to how to respond.”

According to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. this week, only one COVID-19 patient is hospitalized at Luis Hospital on St. Croix and one at Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. The patient at St. Thomas was a crew member on board a vessel that got denied entry into Puerto Rico.

“If we were to reach a certain percentage of [positive cases] or number of hospitalized and ventilated, there are plans in place to go back to previous restrictions that we know work as needed,” Ellis said.

— Contact A.J. Rao at 340-714-9104 or email ajrao@dailynews.vi.