U.S. Virgin Islands Closes Schools to Avert Spread of COVID-19

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announces new measures to safeguard health of Virgin Islands residents

Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands Albert Bryan Jr. has ordered the closure of all public schools across the Territory, effective March 18, 2020, through the end of the Easter holidays, in an effort to curb the spread of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the Governor urged residents to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which encourage social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings. The single positive case identified in the Territory was recovering at home, while local officials await final analysis on eight cases under investigation and nine other samples which have been sent for testing. 

On Friday, the Territory’s chief executive declared an island wide state of emergency, hours before U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency to release billions of dollars in federal funding to mitigate the spread of the global pandemic. The emergency declaration helps to expedite assistance from the federal government and provide access to more resources.

CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next eight weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 or more individuals throughout the United States.

Governor Bryan encouraged cell phone subscribers to sign up for local alerts pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic by texting COVID19USVI to 888-777. He asked millennials and younger people to assist their parents, grandparents and older loved ones by signing them up for the alerts.

He announced that Carnival celebrations on St. Thomas have been postponed indefinitely, and asked residents to refrain from or limit travel on the inter-island ferries unless absolutely necessary. “We will be seeking ways to reduce the density on the ferries until we can achieve a safe social distancing goal,” he said.

Governor Bryan said 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not need medical attention, 15 percent would need some care, while 5 percent would need intensive care. Additionally, he stated there were no major food shortages in the Territory.

Carlton Dowe, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority, said he expects the Territory’s airports to remain open for the foreseeable future, while cargo vessels will continue to deliver food and supplies to the respective seaports. 

“I’m urging us all to remain prudent and vigilant, not fearful,” said Governor Bryan, who encouraged the community not to panic. “If we take the information and do what we need to protect ourselves and the people we love, this too shall pass.” 

Mindful of the increased risk of the older community to the virus, the Governor has restricted visitation at all elder care facilities.  

Stressing the importance of communicating timely and accurate information to help avert the spread of the virus in the Territory, Governor Bryan has requested that the media keep residents informed of new developments as quickly as possible. Residents should also seek updates from official sources of information.

For additional information or to report a suspected case of COVID-19 residents and visitors are encouraged to call the Virgin Islands Department of Health’s Epidemiology Division at (340) 718-1311, ext. 3891 or (340) 774-7477, ext. 5647. 

Residents and visitors can text COVID19USVI to 888-777 to sign up for local alerts.