During the United States Virgin Islands Government House weekly briefing, which resumed on Monday, January 30, 2023, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion warned residents that the new variant of COVID-19 still threatens US Virgin Islanders and urged all persons to get the most recent booster shot of the bivalent vaccine.
Governor Albert Bryan Jr. (D) also urged residents to exercise caution and observe safe, healthy practices in situations such as the upcoming Agricultural Festival and other public events.
“I want to remind the community that COVID is still very much out there,” the Governor said. “And I say that as a victim of it myself within the last couple weeks, you never know who you’re going to meet.”
“Especially our seniors out there with their masks, continue to do that,” Bryan added. “While this thing is now an endemic (sic), we still need to keep up the common sense practices to protect yourselves and your loved ones, especially if your loved ones are elderly or immuno-compromised. So, I’m asking you all to stay vigilant.”
According to Commissioner Encarnacion, there are currently 184 cases of COVID-19 in the territory: 146 in St. Croix, 37 in St. Thomas, and 1 in St. John. One patient is hospitalized with COVID at Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas, and three patients are hospitalized at Juan Luis Hospital in St. Croix.
“The active case numbers are decreasing following our recent surge,” Encarnacion said, adding that the surge in cases on St. Croix followed the Christmas holidays. “We want to encourage the balance of emotional, social, and physical health, so we will continue to send out press releases reminding each of you to practice good hand hygiene, mask-wearing at appropriate times, like traveling on a plane, and separating yourself when not feeling well,” the commissioner said.
She also addressed the fact that the Health Department is aware that the number of cases it tracks does not represent all cases in the territory, primarily because a number of residents take home tests to check for COVID. Those numbers would not be included in the Health Department reports that are distributed.
The Commissioner said the epidemiological tracking is not intended to report on every case but instead is used for watching trends in the spread of the virus.