ST. THOMAS — A COVID-19 outbreak among congregants who attended a church service is driving an increase in positive cases on St. Thomas, V.I. Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said during a press briefing Monday.
“Our epidemiology team has been on it,” and more than half of congregants have already been tested, Encarnacion said.
There are currently 94 active cases in the territory, including 77 on St. Thomas, 16 on St. Croix and one on St. John, and Encarnacion said the spike on St. Thomas is mainly among unvaccinated people.
The church service was identified as a “cluster-related incident,” Encarnacion said, and additional cases are likely due to “private functions and parties organized against the governor’s orders” during traditional Carnival week.
Encarnacion said the pandemic is now a “chronic episode” and “I know the itch to fete is alive, but please take a moment and look at the trends.”
Hospitalizations have fallen when residents adhere to public health guidance, and “it’s unfortunate that we’re still seeing this type of trend since the vaccine is widely available and easily accessible,” Encarnacion said.
There are currently no COVID-19 patients at Luis Hospital on St. Croix, and three patients are being treated for COVID-19 at Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. None of the patients are on a ventilator, Encarnacion said.
There have been 27 deaths due to COVID-19 in the territory.
“Our weekly positivity rate is 3.33%, this is a dramatic uptick since 1.86% last week,” Encarnacion said. “We have seen a major increase in cases on St. Thomas. You must do your part.”
A COVID-19 outbreak among staff of the Lt. Governor’s Office on St. Thomas caused a shutdown of services in April.
Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach filled in for Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. during Monday’s weekly press briefing because Bryan is out of the territory and addressed the shutdown, which has been causing headaches for real estate and insurance agents.
In both districts there was “a cyber security breach at some point in the month of April, and that affected all of our divisions. It also affected some of the other government agencies — although many of them have not said anything,” Roach said.
There was “significant” impact on the Recorder of Deeds and Corporations and Trademarks division, and as soon as that issue was resolved, “we had a COVID outbreak in our Nisky Center offices,” that shut down all divisions, Roach said.
Some employees were quarantined for as long as eight days, and “I am pleased to say that the employees, even in those instances, took work home with them,” Roach said. “We had to get the offices thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and when they came back they were working even weekends to bring recordings up to date, so in the St. Thomas-St. John district we were able to address the backlog effectively by the end of last week.”
The St. Croix district has been shuffling employees and resources to address a real estate boom that’s increased the workload for its small staff, and “we expect to have that backlog addressed by the end of this week,” Roach said.
Roach also said a second batch of $1,400 stimulus checks is going out this week, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue has established a hotline, 340-714-9325, to respond to questions about stimulus checks.
The V.I. Housing Authority’s central offices on St. Thomas closed Friday and Monday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The offices have been cleaned and sanitized and will reopen today, according to a news release.
The V.I. Public Finance Authority announced Monday afternoon that its St. Thomas offices located at 5033 Kongens Gade will be closed throughout the week “for cleaning and sanitizing after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.” The office will reopen on May 17, and staff will be working remotely and are available via email. For further assistance, call the St. Croix office at 340-778-1835.
The COVID-19 hotline on St. Croix is 340-712-6299, and on St. Thomas and St. John call 340-776-1519.
To date, 38,165 first doses of the vaccine have been administered and 29,033 people have received second doses. The territory is 11,835 first doses away from July 1 goal of 50,000, Encarnacion said.
For information about the COVID-19 vaccines, call the VITEMA hotline Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 340-777-8227.
For a list of testing sites, visit covid19usvi.com/testing.