A jubilant Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said Tuesday that the territory’s rate of positivity for COVID-19 testing has plummeted to 1.55%, the lowest since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago.

“This is not only a credit of the great work of the Department of Health, the COVID-19 Task Force, but it’s a credit to you, our Virgin Islanders, who have really been taking this thing seriously,” Bryan said. “I just really want to say thank you — a real thank you for making it possible.”

Bryan added “this is just a glimmer of hope, I know, but more importantly it’s a really encouraging sign that we are headed in the right direction with the efforts to stop the virus here in our community. We are going to bring this thing to a screeching halt.”

But in order to keep the momentum going, Bryan said it’s important to keep following public health precautions and get as many Virgin Islanders vaccinated as possible.

17K fully vaccinated

Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis said that 28,933 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 17,102 people have been fully vaccinated to date. She said there are currently three COVID-19 patients being treated at Luis Hospital on St. Croix, and two at Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. One patient at Luis is on a ventilator, Ellis said.

The territory is receiving doses of all three vaccines — Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — and the mobile vaccine team is out in the community vaccinating the elderly and homebound.

Ellis said everyone over age 16 is eligible to receive the vaccine for free, and “there are no barriers to getting vaccinated.”

“Being undocumented should not stop you from getting the vaccine,” she said.

To schedule a vaccination appointment at the community centers at UVI on St. Thomas and St. Croix, call 340-777-8227 or schedule an appointment online at Covid19usvi.com/vaccines.

Antibody test valid 4 months

According to Ellis, travelers must obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or a positive antibody test result before entering the territory. She encouraged vaccinated Virgin Islanders to get an antibody test, which is valid for four months and can be used repeatedly for travel.

Nonessential travel is now considered safe for individuals who are fully vaccinated, but Ellis urged travelers to be aware of the precautions and restrictions at their destination.

Bryan on Tuesday praised the V.I.’s handling of the pandemic noting, “the territory has been leading the way toward a new normal.”

“We have managed to keep the community safe. We were the first in the nation to offer the vaccine to everyone over 16 and make it available to everyone in our community,” he said, adding the government continues to offer multiple weekly free public testing opportunities.

According to the governor, 3,194 individuals were tested for COVID-19 in the last week alone and “it’s really a good look when you think about last year, we were barely testing 50 people a day.”

That number, he said, has climbed to more than 300 tests per day and “that’s how we are winning.”

“So, right now, when 14 of the 50 states are at the highest risk for a COVID-19 surge, the U.S. Virgin Islands has a seven-day positivity rate at 1.55%,” he said.

Stimulus checks update

In terms of coronavirus stimulus, Bryan said there are still 3,000 checks worth $600 each that have yet to be distributed from the second round of federal funding.

And regarding the third round of $1,400 stimulus checks, Bryan said, “we still haven’t gotten the money yet.”

“We know that the territories are always attended to last, so we’re still waiting for that,” he said.

Bryan also said he intends to address the territory’s crumbling roads, and “we’re going to send down $20 million for the Legislature to decide where we’re going to put this road paving project.”

Areas of concern include Nadir Drive, Fort Mylner and the Hull Bay boat ramp on St. Thomas, but “we know there are a lot more projects out there that need to be done,” and have already been designed and are just waiting for funding approval.

Bryan also thanked the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources for enforcing the prohibition on rafting of boats in Magens Bay over the holiday weekend.

“We are a growing territory, we have a lot of problems,” Bryan said, but “with any progress of any people, nation, country, wherever, there are going to be problems that come with it. Yes, we have a marine opportunity, but that marine opportunity comes with challenges. But we’re doing the things — and you have to trust a little bit in the government — but we too are concerned with Magens Bay and the other harbors.”

He was referring to an explosion in the boating industry in the Virgin Islands as many other islands imposed harsher shutdown restrictions.

Bryan said residents need to acknowledge “how we reinvigorated the blue economy by doing one simple thing — by being open and kind to boaters.”

Boaters, he said, “feel welcome here, and that’s a good thing.”

— Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.