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HomeNewsLocal newsTerritory Prepares for Hurricane Season; Residents Encouraged to Attend V.I. Wellness Fair

Territory Prepares for Hurricane Season; Residents Encouraged to Attend V.I. Wellness Fair

Government House Director of Communications Richard Motta Jr. provides updates during a weekly press briefing on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Government House Facebook live stream)

During Monday’s weekly Government House press briefing, officials announced progress made to ensure that the territory is prepared for the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which began on June 1. Community updates were also shared, including reminding residents about the ongoing V.I. Wellness Fair.

“Last week marked a significant milestone in the administration’s ongoing efforts to enhance the readiness of the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Atlantic Hurricane Season,” said Government House Director of Communications Richard Motta Jr.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency conducted workshops and exercises from May 20 to May 24 to prepare for the season. On May 23, a drill simulated a major hurricane’s landfall.

“The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, in collaboration with its federal partners, engaged in vital response and recovery workshops and conducted a comprehensive hurricane readiness exercise,” Motta explained. “This exercise, which took place on May 23, simulated a Category Three hurricane impacting the islands overnight. It enabled participants to establish a unified command, integrating efforts across emergency operation centers on St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, along with FEMA facilities within the territory,” Motta added.

With a potentially very active hurricane season this year, Motta explained that the exercise will benefit the preparedness of the USVI to handle a real-world hurricane emergency.

“This exercise was not theoretical, but [it was a] practical demonstration of our preparedness to manage and recover from such a significant natural event,” Motta stated.

USVI residents are encouraged to prepare now for hurricane season. Weather forecast information, including severe weather alerts, is available from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency website and the National Weather Service.

 V.I. Wellness Fair

Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar, chief medical officer of the V.I. Health Department and U.S. Air Force Maj. Mu Zhang, the officer in charge of the U.S. Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program, joined the press briefing virtually and reminded residents about the “V.I. Be Well” Wellness Fair. The fair is being held through Sunday and the DOH initiative will provide USVI residents with free access to medical treatments and evaluations, including dental and optometry services, pediatric physical exams, mental health assessments, and various health screenings and tests.

Appointments are not required to visit a clinic for care, and residents will not be asked for any forms of identification or proof of health insurance. Registration for appointments for older adults and persons with disabilities is encouraged.

The Wellness Fair’s official website provides more information about the locations and times of the clinics offering healthcare services.

Regarding health-related news, cases of dengue fever have recently been rising across multiple areas, including in the Caribbean. DOH noted that six cases of dengue fever have been identified across the territory so far this year.

The DOH notes the following information about common symptoms associated with the illness, and residents are advised to become familiar with indications of the virus.

“The most common symptom of dengue is fever with any of the following: nausea, vomiting, rash, aches, and pains (eye pain, typically behind the eyes, muscle, joint, or bone pain). Symptoms of dengue typically last two to seven days, and most people will recover after about a week. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites mostly at dawn and dusk.”

More information about dengue fever is available from the DOH website.

 Judicial News

Motta revealed that Gov. Bryan had introduced new legislation to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for crimes, and he noted that the governor has recently chosen to pardon five individuals serving criminal sentences.

“Governor Bryan has announced new legislation that aims to change how we sentence people for certain crimes here in the territory,” Motta said. “This change will remove mandatory minimum sentences, which are set penalties that must be given for specific offenses, and instead, [the legislation will] allow judges to use their judgment based on the details of each case. By removing the [mandatory minimums], the law will allow judges to consider all aspects of a case and consider mitigating factors, making our judicial system fair and more flexible.”

“This proposal reflects the administration’s commitment to a justice system that focuses on fairness and rehabilitation rather than punishment alone,” Motta added.

Motta also shared the news that Bryan has nominated Ernest E. Morris Jr. as Superior Court Judge of the Virgin Islands.

“A native of St. Croix and a dedicated servant of the law, Magistrate Morris brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to justice,” Motta stated. “Governor Bryan is confident that Magistrate Morris’ nomination will strengthen our judiciary with integrity and wisdom,” he continued.

 Community Updates

Several community updates were also provided during Tuesday’s press briefing, including news about the budget for fiscal year 2025. Motta explained that Bryan had submitted the budget to the 35th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands. More information is available from the V.I. Management and Budget Office website.

Finally, information regarding the 16th annual V.I. Governor’s Summer Reading Program was announced. A press release from Government House included the following information.

“Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., in collaboration with the Virgin Islands Department of Education and the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, has announced the commencement of the 16th Annual Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge. Governor Bryan is challenging the territory’s students in kindergarten through sixth grade to ‘Unlock the Adventure’ to keep their minds sharp and maintain their learning and education during the summer.”

The Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge begins June 1 and continues through August 5.

Details about where students can find more information about the Summer Reading Challenge, including how to sign up, were also provided.

“To sign up for the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge and to access tracking sheets, students can visit https://usvischools.com/. To access books virtually, students can visit www.openlibrary.org, and a copy of the borrowed book will download onto [a] student’s [electronic] device,” according to the Government House press release.




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