US Virgin Islands moves to lock down again after new COVID-19 outbreak
In a press conference on August 13, US Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan (D) announced a Stay at Home Order following an outbreak of COVID-19 in the St. Thomas-St. John district. The order, which went into effect on Monday, August 17, mandates the closure of all non-essential businesses until August 31.
According to the order, restaurants may operate with only take-out and delivery service and beaches have to close at noon on weekends and holidays. Schools and churches have also been instructed to close. Beginning Wednesday, August 19th, tourism has been suspended in the territory, and Airbnbs, hotels, and other tourist accommodations have been told not to take any new reservations for at least a month. Travel will only be permitted in the case of emergencies and transport of essential items like packages and medical supplies.
The US Virgin Islands began easing restrictions on bars and restaurants soon after Memorial Day and has been open for tourism since June 1. The government aimed to facilitate safe reopenings by enforcing mask mandates and social distancing guidelines. However, COVID-19 outbreaks in the Queen Louise Home for the Aged and the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Complex, both in St. Thomas, have alarmed the public. Overall cases of the virus in the territory increased 40% between August 5 and August 13, and cases in St. Thomas increased 70% during that period.
Bryan emphasized that although the current outbreak is not in St. Croix, the island must follow the order as well as it has been sending its limited supplies over to the St. Thomas-St. John district.
At the press conference, Governor Bryan expressed his regret but emphasized that the order was necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus in St. Thomas and throughout the territory. “When we announced our COVID-19 alert system in May, I indicated at that time that we would retreat … to a more cautious state of alert if conditions warranted. Unfortunately, we have arrived at that point this week,” Bryan stated. “We have come to a time when we have to make a decision that is for the greater good of all in order to preserve life, safety, and the way we live here in the Virgin Islands.”