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Education Department, Legislature and Courts Hit by COVID-19

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands confirmed by test results as of Dec. 12. (Image provided by the V.I. Department of Health)

As the number of COVID-19 cases trends higher and the governor announces new restrictions, infections have impacted the Education Department, Legislature and the courts.

On Monday, the Department of Education reported several confirmed cases over the past week, affecting a contractor, food service worker and student.

On Dec. 8, the department was informed a St. Croix contracted educational services provider tested positive. Following off-island travel, the contractor underwent a COVID-19 test on Dec. 3, according to the department. On the morning of Dec. 5, while still awaiting test results, the contractor visited a family to provide educational resources for a student. That afternoon, the contractor’s test results revealed a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

According to the report, the family was advised to get tested and the contractor will remain in quarantine and have no further contact with families until a negative COVID-19 test result is produced.

According to Education officials, due to the contractor’s telework schedule, no department employees were impacted and offices were not closed.

But also on Dec. 8, the Department of Education reportedly got word of messages circulating via text and social media alleging a COVID-19 infection of a food service worker in the St. Thomas-St. John District. Education officials looked into it and the employee produced a positive COVID-19 test to managers on Dec. 9.

The affected employee will reportedly remain in quarantine until a negative COVID-19 test is produced.

Other employees that were in close contact with the affected employee have been asked to self-quarantine and call the Department of Health’s hotline to be tested for COVID-19.

All kitchens and meal distribution sites on St. Thomas have been temporarily closed.

All food service workers and school bus drivers in both districts are required to attend a mandatory COVID-19 reeducation training taking place this week, conducted online by the V.I. Department of Health. The program is designed to reinforce correct information about the spread of COVID-19.

A high school student on St. Thomas participated in an activity with other students on Dec. 3. The student learned of their positive COVID-19 diagnosis on Dec. 4, following an off-island trip the previous week.

The student will reportedly remain in quarantine until he or she tests negative.

All students and staff who were in close contact with the student have been contacted and told to self-quarantine and take a COVID-19 test.

The Department of Education is the largest agency in the government and is the single largest employer in the territory, other than the entire government of which it is part. It has around 2,000 employees and 11,000 students, accounting for around 13 percent of the territory’s entire population. The students are also around family members. So long as the illness continues to spread in the population as a whole, it would be statistically improbable for the Department of Education to have no cases, the department said in its news release.

Meanwhile, the Legislature announced Legislature buildings territorywide will be closed this week due to an employee testing positive for the virus. All committee meetings scheduled for the week have been postponed and will be rescheduled. Employees will telework during this period.

Regular operations are expected to resume on Dec. 21.

Also, Supreme Court Chief Justice Rhys Hodge has ordered the St. Croix Superior Court building closed through Dec. 20 due to several staffers testing positive for the virus. Previously scheduled hearings, including advice of rights, are to be conducted remotely in both judicial districts. Filings will continue to be accepted electronically as well as through a dropbox.

On Dec. 11, the Department of Health reported 58 new positive test results, the worst single-day since the pandemic hit the U.S. Virgin Islands. The day before, 35 new cases were reported, which is among the worst several days. The days before and after those two days saw 13-18 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of positive test results is on an upward trend and stands at 9 percent.

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