Update By Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Georges on the COVID-19 OUTBREAK
July 6th, 2021
At this time, I wish to give you a further update on the COVID-19 situation in the Virgin Islands.
As of the 5th of July, 2021 the Territory has detected a total of 480 reported positive cases of COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands.
On the 3rd of July 692 samples were tested and 126 were returned as positive while on the 4th of July, 2021 a total of 480 samples were tested returning 94 positive test results.
The total active case count in the Virgin Islands currently stands at 478 after repeat tests and recoveries are taken into account.
The unprecedented rise in infections is uncharacteristic of previous outbreaks in the Territory. Therefore, concern needs to be given to identifying the variants of COVID-19 circulating in the Territory.
Samples have been packaged and are awaiting delivery through the Regional Security Service to be transported to CARPHA for typing on Wednesday, 7th July 2021.
Discussions have also been ongoing with the Public Health England, United Kingdom for alternate arrangements for expediting the typing of specimens to determine the circulating variants in the Territory.
Given these unknowns, it is important for us to err on the side of caution until more information is available. Currently there are four (4) persons hospitalised with two (2) in ICU presently. Given the large number of cases and positive contacts the Virgin Islands can be assumed to be experiencing community spread of COVID-19 at this time.
From the 478 active cases ten (10) are located on vessels, two (2) on Anegada, 452 on Tortola, eight (8) on Virgin Gorda, and six (6) on Jost Van Dyke. The sex distribution of cases is currently 43 percent male and 56 percent female. Fifty (50) percent of cases are unvaccinated, 11.4 percent are partially vaccinated, 21.4 are fully vaccinated, and 16.53 percent are not recorded/to be determined.
Currently there are two (2) patients admitted to the ICU and six (6) admitted patients on the Special Care Unit, two of whom are stable and asymptomatic. At the BVI Health Services Authority 60 staff have been screened as positive and will be cleared in accordance with protocols.
The current symptom profile of persons experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 infection are as follows:
Common symptoms >50%
Less Frequent (<50%)
Rare Symptoms <10%
Fever (with an onset late evening – early morning)
Coughing up blood
Loss of appetite
Weakness (tingling or numbness) in legs or hands.
Cough with phlegm/mucous (Wet Cough)
Congestion or runny nose
Loss of taste & smell
The Community Health Services will move clinical care to telemedicine as much as practical and reduce in-person services. To help with this, the implementation of EHR systems to manage patient records can be a huge benefit for medical centers as they go through this transition. The focus will shift to vaccination and testing. The BVI Health Services will be curtailing elective services, out-patient clinics, and services, and will be moving to remote telemedicine and pick-up and drop-off where appropriate. A more detailed press bulletin will follow from the BVI Health Services Authority.
The GIS will provide bulletins on the following areas throughout the day to provide guidance to the public:
Schedule of testing of contacts at specific risk exposure events
Workplace guidance – Prevent and Reduce Transmission within the Government of the Virgin Islands
Online reporting self-reporting and symptom check for symptomatic and COVID-19 positive persons
Isolation/Stay at Home Guidelines for COVID-19 positive persons or persons with symptoms of COVID-19
Private Sector Business Guidance
Positive Travel Exit Tests – What to do
Persons who receive positive tests results or are symptomatic should immediately self-isolate and follow the appropriate guidance. It is important that if you are positive or think you may be positive to limit your contact with others and stay at home!
The Ministry of Health and the BVI Health Services Authority will be conducting contact-tracing testing in accordance with the schedules to be published, followed by screening of essential workers later this week, and then followed by the general community testing asymptomatic persons.
Symptomatic persons should call the Medical Hotline at 852-7650 or Public Health at 468-4936, 468-2274, or 468-2285 and follow the directives in the testing bulletins.
Private health care institutions have been offering sample collection which are then conducted at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital. It is therefore imperative that any mass screening conducted by any private medical providers be coordinated directly with the BVI Health Services Authority to ensure that the laboratory can handle the volume at that time.
The previous advice given to the public is at this time reiterated:
Persons should voluntarily limit unnecessary movement and as far as possible stay at home.
If you must go out please strictly adhere to all public health measures in force regardless of your vaccination status. This includes:
Universal mask wearing
Regular hand hygiene
Social distancing of at least six feet from persons not from your household
Avoid all mass gathering events in particular indoor events.
Where gatherings are happening there must be strict adherence to all public health measures. If you are not comfortable with what you see please do leave and report any breaches to the organisers and authorities.
All offices and businesses should ensure very strict adherence to measures already in place and can begin consideration for further limiting the number of patrons/or clients entering premises to further limit opportunities for transmission
All businesses and offices should consider implementing their business continuity plans and remote working where possible.
If you do think you have been exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19 do call the medical hotline at 852-7650 to schedule a test of for further advice
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 immediately self-isolate and seek to be tested as soon as possible.
Persons are reminded to exercise patience with the Public Health and Health Services team and follow instructions given for their own safety and that of the public.
As a result of the increase in COVID-19 activity, reporting of laboratory results and processing of quarantine releases will be delayed. The Ministry of Health will be shortly posting links by which persons can report symptoms and particularly for positive persons with Travel tests to arrange re-testing as required.
Attention should be paid to the timing of testing after exposure. It is imperative to wait until the best testing interval as advised by Public Health via the official bulletins being released. Persons testing too early can be lulled into a false sense of security as they may be within the incubation period for COVID-19.
Vaccination remains voluntary and a personal and individual choice in the Virgin Islands.
Presently persons desirous of being vaccinated can be vaccinated at the following locations:
All Community Clinics during normal working hours
Catholic Community Centre from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Private health facilities
There is no restriction on first dose vaccinations. All persons desirous of having first dose vaccination can attend any of the vaccination locations to be vaccinated.
Vaccinations will continue up to the 31st of July 2021 and will be given free of charge at all of these locations.
The Government of the Virgin Islands and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office through the local Governor’s Office will continue to make best efforts to ensure that vaccines are available after the 31st of July so that persons receiving first doses during this time will also receive their second doses.
I therefore want to again encourage persons to seek to be reliably informed and avail themselves of all of the current opportunities to be vaccinated and be vigilant for signs of COVID-19 which include headache, runny nose, nasal congestion, fever, dry cough, muscle aches, vomiting, loss of taste, smell or appetite.
If you or your loved ones are experiencing any signs or symptoms contact the Public Health Unit at 468-4936, 468-2274, or 468-2285 or the Medical Hotline at 852-7650 immediately.
If you are having a medical emergency, then you should call 911.
Let us continue to do our individual and collective part to keep each other and ourselves healthy and safe.