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Tourism Commissioner Urges Continued Vigilance in COVID-19 Battle

Commissioner-designee Joe Boschulte at the 2019 Caribbean Travel Marketplace Conference in Jamaica last week.

Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte reminds Virgin Islanders and visitors to the U.S. Virgin Islands to continue complying with public health guidance to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the territory.

Responding to international reports concerning a spike in cases in the U.S.V.I., the commissioner said while there were changes in the total number of positive cases (from 74 to 111) over the past two weeks, the 50 percent increase can be attributed mainly to incoming contractors at the refinery on St. Croix.

He reminded travelers that the territory is in its precautionary “Open Doors” phase of restarting its tourism-based economy, and he encouraged everyone flying into the V.I. to review the travel advisory on www.usviupdate.com and familiarize themselves with the Toolkit for Travelers.

“COVID-19 hotspots across the United States continue to emerge, and we have strict measures in place to mitigate the spread of the disease, such as health screenings at our airports and the wearing of masks when out in public or entering any business in the U.S.V.I.,” Boschulte said.

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The commissioner reiterated his confidence in the Department of Health’s handling of the public health response. He pointed out that the number of patients who tested positive had increased from 2.86 percent on June 19 to 3.49 percent on July 3. The tourism chief noted that relative changes to small numbers can appear to be more significant than they really are. “If we have one case today, and three tomorrow, that’s a 200 percent increase,” said Boschulte, while acknowledging that every additional COVID-19 case was cause for concern.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced last week that the strict protocols already in place at the oil refinery — including temperature scans at the gate, mandatory facial coverings, weekly reporting of contractors traveling to St. Croix, and the screening and quarantining of all contractors immediately upon arrival — will continue. However, with the evolving situation on the U.S. mainland, all contract workers must now be tested before arriving on St. Croix and will not be allowed to travel if results are positive. Additionally, refinery workers with accommodations in a nearby residential community have been ordered not to leave the facility except for work duties.

Government officials are currently contemplating further restrictions on travel related to the COVID-19 surge in the continental United States, but Boschulte assured travelers en route to the U.S. Virgin Islands over the next few days that there is currently no official policy change in effect regarding COVID-19 testing for visitors arriving in the territory, and as such, a negative PCR test is currently not required before travels.

Routine temperature checks and health screenings are being conducted at ports of entry. No quarantine is required if travelers are healthy. Testing, quarantine and isolation protocols are in place for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and also for contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the sale of alcohol is prohibited at all establishments after 11 p.m., and all bars will be closed daily at midnight until further notice.

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