US Virgin Islands Department of Health announces first confirmed COVID-19 death
The United States Virgin Islands Department of Health announced the confirmation of the territory’s first confirmed COVID-19 death and two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease on St. Thomas. This brings the territory’s total confirmed cases to 42 — 12 on Croix, 28 on St. Thomas, and two on St. John. The deceased is an 85-year-old male St. Thomas resident with underlying medical conditions. He unknowingly came into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case that traveled to the island from Anguilla. He was not hospitalized at the time of his death and died at home.
“We are saddened by the news of the territory’s first confirmed COVID-19 death. On behalf of my staff at the Department of Health, I send my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” said Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion. While this death was not a result of community transmission, persons may come in contact with someone who is infected unbeknownst to them. By avoiding contact with others, avoiding non-essential travel, and practicing good hand hygiene and other precautionary measures like social distancing, the department said you can limit your risk of spreading and also acquiring this disease.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “[c]ommunity spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.” Social distancing, according to the CDC, is “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
As of publishing time, the US Virgin Islands had tested 266 people, with 42 of those coming back positive: 28 in St. Thomas, 12 in St. Croix, and two in St. John.
Health officials, in collaboration with other agencies, have been closely monitoring the global outbreak and building capacity to prevent the spread of the disease in the territory and respond to positive cases. The department’s Epidemiology Division continues to provide testing for cases that meet the Person Under Investigation (PUI) criteria, conduct contact tracing and assist healthcare providers and the public with up-to-date information and guidelines about what to do to prevent additional cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends avoiding non-essential travel to any location, as well as no cruise ship travel. The department indicated that postponing vacations to the territory will also lessen the impact of COVID-19 on the community. Those returning home to the USVI must quarantine for 14 days and self-monitor their symptoms. Older adults and those with underlying health issues are particularly vulnerable and should avoid crowded places and non-essential air travel to decrease their risk for virus transmission.
US Virgin Islanders who are experiencing symptoms, such as a cough, fever, and shortness of breath, and have traveled anywhere in the last 14 days, or have had contact with a confirmed case should self-quarantine and call (340) 712-6299 or (340) 776-1519 from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm Monday through Sunday. These phone numbers are only to be used by those who meet the criteria above and suspect they may have the virus. After calling, they will be given instructions on what to do next and that may include isolating yourself from others.