Governor Bryan, Education Officials Give Details On School Reopening Plan

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his updated on COVID-19 on Thursday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin, St. Croix School Superintendent Carlos MacGregor and St. Thomas-St. John School Superintendent Stephon Jurgen gave details on the V.I. Education Department’s plan for reopening the Territory’s schools.

On Monday, Governor Bryan announced he is pushing back the start date for the Territory’s schools to reopen to at least September 8.

Details about the Department of Educations plan are available on its website at www.vide.vi.

The educators discussed a wide range of topics, including social distancing in classrooms, school lunches, busing, school sanitization, class sizes, online learning options and a number of other issues. The Department of Education is considering three possible scenarios – virtual learning, in-school learning or a hybrid of the two – but is deferring a final decision as they gauge the impact and track of the current surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a result of the current situation with our active cases, we have decided to delay the start of the school year to at least after Labor Day,” Governor Bryan said. “This will give families the time and the opportunity to prepare for our students’ safe return to school under any of these three circumstances and also give our teachers and staff time to prepare as well.”

Limetree outbreak

Governor Bryan also discussed the outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the Limetree refinery on St. Croix. The Governor said the surge of COVID-19 cases IN THE Virgin Islands has caught the attention of the national media, which has reported the numbers accurately but failed to realize the recent increase in cases is centered at the Limetree Bay facility.

The Governor reiterated the aggressive efforts Limetree officials and the Virgin Islands Department of Health are taking to combat the outbreak at the refinery, which include a freeze on contractors coming to the Territory to work there, temperature checks at the gates, a two-week lockdown of the Man Camp and testing all Limetree workers every 14 days.

“For those who have been asking, we have contemplated a full shutdown of the facility for a period of time. That has been an active consideration,” Governor Bryan said. “However, we have been monitoring the results of the testing on the Limetree Bay workers, and we have seen a welcome reduction in the positivity rates. If that trend reverses, we are prepared to take the steps necessary to temporarily curtail operations at the facility.”

Travel restrictions

The list of states and territories that fall under travel restrictions for arrivals to the Territory has expanded to 13: Puerto Rico; Arizona; Texas; Florida; South Carolina; Alabama; Georgia; Nevada; Idaho; Arkansas; Mississippi; Kansas and Louisiana.

Passengers coming to the Virgin Islands from those destinations are required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within five days of their arrival or go into 14-day quarantine.

The Governor said the Department of Tourism within the next few days will launch a new website and an app where incoming travelers can get the most up-to-date information and also upload their test results before they arrive to avoid bottlenecks at the tarmac and baggage claim areas.

“We continue to receive quite a bit of feedback around this policy. Quite frankly, it is a heavy order, but we are ramping up our efforts each day,” Governor Bryan said. “At the moment, we have a combination of personnel and infrared equipment conducting the surveys and screenings at our airports.”

Unemployment benefits

  • VIDOL has implemented the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which allots an additional 12 weeks of unemployment assistance to individuals should it be necessary. To file an online application, visit the website at www.vidol.com or contact their call center at 1-877-374-0356.
  • As of this week, the Department of Labor has issued 23,551 unemployment checks totaling $17,758,309 and 18,829 federal pandemic unemployment checks totaling $30,155,160.
  • A total of $47,913,469 has been paid out to Virgin Islands residents who have lost employment as a result of the pandemic. 

COVID-19 cases

  • Currently tracking 123 active cases
  • 5,453 individuals tested to date (more than 5% of the population)
  • 5,036 of those tests were negative
  • 249 tests came back positive
  • 168 tests are pending
  • 6 fatalities to date
  • One COVID-19 patient is hospitalized and on a ventilator at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
  • One COVID-19 patient is hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.

Governor Bryan’s next COVID-19 update is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, July 20.

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