GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS OF THE UNITED STATES

VIRGIN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

ST. CROIX OFFICE
3500 ESTATE RICHMOND
CHRISTIANSTED, ST. CROIX, U.S.V.I. 00820-4370 CHARLES HARWOOD MEMORIAL COMPLEX TEL: (340)718-6551 * FAX: (340)718-1376

ST.THOMAS OFFICE 1303 HOSPITAL GROUND, SUITE 10
CHARLOTTE AMALIE ST.THOMAS, U.S.V.I. 00802-6722
TEL: (340)774-0117 * FAX: (340)777-4001

PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Jahnesta Ritter

March 20, 2020 (340) 718-1311

Health Department Announces Three Additional Confirmed COVID-19 Cases

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (March 20, 2020)—The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health has received confirmation of three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease. This brings the territory’s total confirmed cases to six—two in the St. Croix district and four in the St. Thomas/ St. John district.

The latest St. Croix confirmed case was a resident who recently returned home and was self- quarantined at home and has recovered. One of the latest St. Thomas cases was a close contact of a prior case that quarantined with the case, and the second confirmed case for the St. Thomas/St. John is a Cyril E. King airport employee with no recent travel history. This marks the first case of “community transmission” of COVID-19 in the U.S.V.I. This confirms that there is person-to- person spread in our community and underscores the importance of social distancing.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.” Social distancing, according to the CDC, is “remaining out of congregrate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.”

Persons Under Investigation Update (74 CUMULATIVE TOTAL):

  • Positive: 6 (2 STX; 4 STT)
  • Negative: 25 (11 STX; 11 STT; 2 STJ)
  • Pending: 43 (15 STX; 28 STT)

“Although community spread now isn’t surprising, this new development marks a turning point in this pandemic, and we have to remain vigilant to the social distancing guidelines provided and all do our part to protect the most vulnerable of our population” said Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.

“We urge our residents to stay safe and shelter in place as much as possible during this time of COVID-19 disease; this will help prevent the spread and protect our community,” the commissioner added.

Health officials have been closely monitoring the global outbreak and building capacity to prevent the spread of the disease in the territory and to respond to positive cases.

The department’s Epidemiology Division continues to conduct testing for cases that meet the Person Under Investigation (PUI) criteria, conduct contact tracing and assist healthcare providers and the public with up-to-date education as to what to do to prevent additional cases.

While the risk of severe illness for most is low, the risk for transmission is not and precautions must still be taken to avoid spread within the community. A person may also get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

To avoid COVID-19 and help prevent its spread, Department of Health officials recommend the following steps:

  • Limit socializing and close contact with others, as persons without symptoms can still transmit the virus.
  • While sick, avoid contact with others.
  • Avoid persons with cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and discard the tissue. Wash your hands immediately. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends avoiding non-essential travel to any location as well as no cruise ship travel. Older adults and those with underlying health issues are particularly vulnerable and should avoid crowded places and non-essential air travel to decrease their risk for virus transmission.

COVID-19 symptoms reported include fever, cough and shortness of breath. It spreads mostly between people who are in close contact via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Persons who have contracted COVID-19 are most likely to spread it when they are most symptomatic. This means they are more likely to spread it to others when they are sick.

If you are experiencing symptoms like a cough, fever, and shortness of breath, and have traveled anywhere in the last 14 days, please self-quarantine and call (340) 712-6299 or 340-776-1519 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

These phone numbers are only to be used if you meet the criteria above and suspect you may have the virus. You will be given instructions on what to do next and that may include isolating yourself from others.

If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Yesterday, Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to an emergency call about a St. Croix resident and amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in an abundance of caution, donned personal protective equipment. This patient was not a confirmed COVID-19 case.

For more information, visit: doh.vi.gov/coronavirus or cdc.gov/covid19. For updates, text COVID19USVI to 888777.