The U.S. Virgin Islands has recorded its 37th death related to COVID-19 – a 67-year-old woman on St. Croix – the fourth person in the territory to die from the virus since July 22.
The death, reported Friday morning by the V.I. Health Department, comes as the USVI battles a surge in cases attributed to the more highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, with 210 active cases as of Thursday and 21 people hospitalized, including two children ages 9 and 13.
Speaking Thursday night on the Press Box, the town hall broadcast weekly from Government House on St. Croix, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said 100 percent of the territory’s deaths from COVID-19 have been in unvaccinated people and urged those who have not received their vaccines to do so now.
The Delta variant is much stronger than the original, wild strain of the virus, and much easier to catch, said Encarnacion. It also renders victims much sicker, and is affecting a younger demographic, she said. The latest COVID statistics from the Health Department on Thursday reveal that the median age among cases is 37, with infections now showing up in those under 17 and ages 18-29.
Currently, just over 38,000 residents of the territory are fully vaccinated, or 41 percent of the eligible population – far short of the 80 to 90 percent the Centers for Disease Control is now recommending to achieve community immunity against the virus and its mutations, said Encarnacion.
The surge in cases also has led the government to forestall the opening of the new public school year to in-person learning on Aug. 9, out of “an abundance of caution,” Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announced on Thursday.
Also, the Public Works Department announced on Friday that it will close Main Street in downtown Charlotte Amalie to vehicle traffic from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 3, to better maintain proper social distancing during a cruise ship call that day.
“This closure will allow passengers to practice the appropriate social distancing and COVID-19 precautionary measures,” said DPW Commissioner Derek Gabriel in a press release. “The safety of our residents and visitors remain paramount, as we welcome cruise passengers back to the territory.”
The Tourism Department’s Visitor Experience Team will be on hand to welcome guests and distribute masks and sanitizers, and the V.I. Police Department will direct traffic accordingly, said Gabriel. DPW is collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce and the Health Department on the endeavor, he said.
The Health Department is urging residents not to drop their guard against the virus by continuing to social distance, wash their hands frequently, wearing their masks, and getting vaccinated to prevent serious illness or death from the virus.
To schedule a vaccine appointment – available to anyone age 12 and older – call 340-777-8227 or visit covid19usvi.com/vaccines. Walk-ins are also accepted at the territory’s Community Vaccination Centers.
St. Croix’s Community Vaccination Center is located at the Nissan Center in La Grande Princesse, adjacent to the Honda Dealership and The Paint Shop, on the same side of the street as Food Town.
On St. Thomas, the Community Vaccination Center is located at the Community Health Clinic on the second floor of Schneider Regional Medical Center.
Vaccines also are available every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the V.I. Port Authority’s Enighed Pond Gravel Lot on St. John.
To report a suspected case of COVID-19, 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. For more information, visit covid19usvi.com. For COVID 19 updates, text COVID19USVI to 888777.