The V.I. Health Department announced Friday that three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease have been confirmed in the territory, and one is the first known case of community transmission.
That brings the total number of positive test results to six, with two in the St. Croix district and four in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
According to the Health Department, the latest St. Croix confirmed case was a resident who recently returned home and was self-quarantined at home and has recovered. One of the latest St. Thomas cases was a close contact of a prior case that quarantined with the case. The second confirmed case for the St. Thomas/St. John district is a Cyril E. King airport employee with no recent travel history.
The airport employee marks the first case of “community transmission,” confirming there is person-to-person spread in the territory. In a release, Health Department officials say this development “underscores the importance of social distancing.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community 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.”
There are now 74 people who have been tested in the USVI, with six confirmed infected; 25 people whose tests came back negative and 43 still pending. Of the patients with pending tests, 15 are on St. Croix and 28 on St. Thomas, according to the Health Department.
“Although community spread now isn’t surprising, this new development marks a turning point in this pandemic, and we have to remain vigilant to the social distancing guidelines provided and all do our part to protect the most vulnerable of our population” Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said in a release..
“We urge our residents to stay safe and shelter in place as much as possible during this time of COVID-19 disease; this will help prevent the spread and protect our community,” she added.
While the risk of severe illness for most is low, the risk for transmission is not and precautions must still be taken to avoid spread within the community. A person may also get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
To avoid COVID-19 and help prevent its spread, Department of Health officials recommend the following steps:
– Limit socializing and close contact with others, as persons without symptoms can still transmit the virus.
– While sick, avoid contact with others.
– Avoid persons with cold or flu-like symptoms.
– Stay home if you are sick.
– Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and discard the tissue. Wash your hands immediately. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
– Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
– Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.
People who have contracted COVID-19 are most likely to spread it when they are most symptomatic. This means they are more likely to spread it to others when they are sick.
If you are experiencing symptoms like a cough, fever, and shortness of breath, and have traveled anywhere in the last 14 days, please self-quarantine and call (340) 712-6299 or 340-776-1519 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
These phone numbers are only to be used if you meet the criteria above and suspect you may have the virus. You will be given instructions on what to do next and that may include isolating yourself from others.
If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Yesterday, Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to an emergency call about a St. Croix resident and amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in an abundance of caution, donned personal protective equipment. This patient was not a confirmed COVID-19 case.
For more information, visit: doh.vi.gov/coronavirus or cdc.gov/covid19. For updates, text COVID19USVI to 888777.