The news that five Virgin Islanders succumbed to COVID-19 in one day this week must be a wake up call for all of us, and in particular for the executive branch of the V.I. government.
This tragic death toll, in a single day, is by far the highest fatality rate since the start of the pandemic and a clear signal that something must change if we are to avoid worse days ahead. To put it into perspective, the highest single day COVID-19 death toll across the continental United States was around 4,500 deaths per day in January 2021. At a population of 330 million, this is equivalent to 1.3 fatalities per 100,000 residents. Our one-day death toll of five, mostly elderly, Virgin Island residents is four times the highest daily death toll ever seen in the U.S.
We have reached a tragic crossroads where we either do something very different, or risk suffering more of the consequences of inaction. With all due respect Gov. Bryan, closing beaches at 4 p.m. on weekends is a totally ineffective deterrent and makes one question your claim that you have the health interests of Virgin Islanders as your top priority. Allowing unknown numbers of unvaccinated children to roam the streets of Charlotte Amalie and Frederiksted when cruise ships arrive clearly defines your priority to promote tourism, even at the expense of public health. While our school age children are forced to continue their studies from home, we open our doors to tourists to freely enjoy our public resources. Something is wrong.
So far during the month of August we have had the largest number of new positive cases (1,078), the highest number of active cases (401), and the highest number of fatalities (16) for any month since the start of the pandemic. And there is no indication that we are over the hump — the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 is in our communities and we could be in for much more difficult days ahead. We are clearly headed in the WRONG direction.
We are deep into hurricane season. Our service industry workers are exhausted. Tired people make mistakes and I’ve seen a decline in mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitizing. It is past time to make a change to stem the tide of new and fatal COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands. What do I suggest: follow the science and CDC’s guidelines on high risk activities and immediately close the most risky establishments in the territory. Indoor bars, nightclubs, indoor dining, gyms, theaters, places of worship all figure prominently on the list of high risk environment (Visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html. ENFORCE the masking orders and issue fines and closures to businesses which do not adhere to the orders. Do something SIGNIFICANT to reduce the level of virus transmission in the territory while we continue EVERY EFFORT to get more residents vaccinated.)
The way in which you handle the COVID-19 public health crisis will define your legacy Governor. It could be a proud legacy if the right steps are taken. At the moment it is not looking like that, at all.
— David Silverman, St. John