During the weekly Government House press briefing, Richard Motta, GVI communications director, Ruben Molloy, assistant Health commissioner, and Dr. Nicole Syms, deputy Health commissioner, shared news concerning the territory and residents.
COVID -19 infections increased slightly in the territory in the last week, according to Molloy, but there have been no signs of the new variant BA-2. Molloy said it’s just a matter of when not if. The new variant now accounts for one-third of the cases on the mainland, he added.
There are now 40 cases of the coronavirus in the territory, with 28 on St. Croix, 11 on St. Thomas, and St. John has one. The positivity rate rose from 0.88 percent to 1.76 percent in the last week. Fortunately, there are no hospitalizations. Pop-up COVID testing sites will be discontinued on March 31 on St. Thomas at Cost U Less and at The Market and the Farmers’ Market on St. Croix.
Vaccinations will be administered on St. Croix at Charles Harwood Medical Complex from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and on St. Thomas at the Schneider Regional Medical Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On St. John, the vaccine will be available at the Port Authority gravel lot on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
Molloy cautioned the public to “remain vigilant” with vaccinations, hand sanitizer and to wear masks in crowded places and whenever more protection is desired. Masks are still required at schools, airports, and seaports.
Motta reported that according to 21 autonomous revenue-generating agencies, there are twice as many visitors to the territory in the first quarter of this year compared to last year and hotel revenue is up 75 percent. Additionally, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in years, at 7.9 percent. With the reopening of the Marriott Hotel and the St. Croix refinery, there is reason for additional optimism, he said.
“The financial outlook of the Virgin Islands is stable and growing with revenues on par or better than pre-COVID levels,” Motta said.
Motta also reported the V.I. Office of Management and Budget is preparing the governor’s 2023-2024 budget.
The Internal Revenue Bureau is sending out 1,431 refunds for 2020 – a total of $25 million – the closest to paying in the same year as they’ve ever been, Motta said.
Syms warned parents about edible cannabis and said it was important to talk to children about the subject without ramifications. They should find out what their children know and point out that although they look like candy or cookies, the drug can be dangerous.
Without knowing the amount of THC in the products, overdosing is possible, Syms said. The drug can also affect the central nervous or cardiac system adversely.
“You can be walking on the moon in the middle of class,” Syms warned.
The health concern message came from the V.I. Police, Health, and Education departments.