U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (March 19, 2020) – U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced the Territory was escalating emergency measures restricting public assembly and urged residents to follow government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to help contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) virus.

Addressing a media conference, the governor reported the Territory had confirmed its third positive COVID-19 patient who is currently under quarantine, joining two other positive cases in isolation. All patients are expected to recover. In total, 32 tests have been conducted. Three have tested positive, eight results were negative, and 21 tests are still outstanding.

The governor thanked the Territory’s first responders for their dedication and sacrifice, acknowledging that they routinely put the needs of others ahead of their own, often endangering their own health.

To further strengthen public safety, several restrictions will be implemented. Commencing Saturday, March 21 at 6 a.m., in-person events in the Territory, including those visiting bars and restaurants, will be limited to a maximum of 10 people. While funerals will be exempt from the restriction, the Governor asked that those who are not immediate family members to refrain from attending; he recommended that memorial services be planned for a date in the future.

In other efforts to reinforce social distancing, the governor announced a prohibition of camping on public beaches for the Easter holiday season.

“Big-box stores” such as Kmart, Plaza Extra and Home Depot would be exempted from the 10-person limit and Plaza Extra will allow seniors only to shop on Monday between 7 and 10 a.m. Other individuals should stay away from the store during these hours.

To help ease the pressure on businesses, Governor Bryan said the administration had applied for economic help from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) which this week was allocated additional funds by the United States Congress.

Effective Monday, March 23 through April 6, Governor Bryan declared the government will provide only essential services. To keep the administration functioning, government employees will be classified as either essential or non-essential. Employees will be advised if they are required to go to work, work from home or stay home.

All license renewals will have 60-day extensions while online services will remain operational for benefits, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare and Medicaid.

The governor announced that there are more than 1,500 visitors in the Territory. There have been no requests to close airports; any decision to close sea ports or airports is made by the federal government.

Governor Bryan cautioned residents to expect further containment measures if conditions change and urged residents to comply “so we do not have to impose a curfew.”

Officials also said during this time of isolation, taking care of one’s mental health was important. Members of the public are encouraged to call the Lifeline hotline at 1 (800) 985-5990 or 1 (800) 799 4889 for the hearing impaired, to speak with a professional, if required.

For more information or to report a suspected case of COVID-19, call the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Division at (340) 718-1311, ext. 3891 or (340) 712-6299 (St. Croix); and (340) 774-7477, ext. 5647 or (340) 776-1519 (St. Thomas).

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