Omicron Variant Suspected In USVI’s COVID-19 Surge

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by Dillon De Shong

Loop- VOfficials on the US Virgin Islands are confident that the recent spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the territory is due to the omicron variant.

During today’s press briefing, Governor Albert Bryan stated: “The evidence is clear that it is here amongst us whether it is verified or not.”

“We have seen an exponential increase in a matter of days and this is the highest number of active cases we have seen in our almost two-year response to this virus.”

Commissioner of Health Justa Encarnacion said 84 samples were sent to Yale University for genetic testing and they were positive for the delta variant.

Another batch of over 80 samples has been sent to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the results are expected back tomorrow.

Encarnacion said the rise in cases in the USVI is mimicking what is taking place across the US mainland and that is what has led authorities to believe omicron is on island.

Active infections of COVID-19 in the USVI jumped to 544 on Sunday when the weekly epidemiological report was released.

The seven-day positivity rate increased to 11.6 per cent.

This is up from just over 72 in the previous week.

Since March 2020, the US Virgin Islands has recorded 8,213 infections.

The governor said Virgin Islanders are not to blame for the recent spread of COVID-19 across the territory since he has observed that the restrictions were being followed by most people.

Bryan and a number of US Governors held a phone conference with President Joe Biden and Dr Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, to discuss the rapid rise in new infections across the nation.

He urged persons who feel ill to “stay home for the holidays” to avoid spreading COVID-19.

The government’s work from home program will be initiated from tomorrow until January 3. Bryan called on the private sector to do the same.

Bars, restaurants and clubs must shut at midnight and last call will be 11 pm.

This program will stay in place until January 10 but the governor noted it will be reassessed.

An exception has been made for New Year’s Eve and places of entertainment will be allowed to operate until 2 am with last call at 1 am.

Churches and places of worship will not be placed under restrictions but Bryan urged caution.

From January 3, all travellers will have to submit a negative test prior to travelling to the US Virgin Islands.

The test must be taken 72 hours before arrival.

Bryan expects this test requirement to last for 30 days.

“We know omicron is going to tear through here [and] there’s nothing we can do about that but we can slow it down,” Bryan said while noting the surge is expected to last for about a month.

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