Governor Albert Bryan Jr., citing the skyrocketing COVID cases, announced on Tuesday that public school students would resume classes virtually from Monday.
“We understand that there are still a number of students eligible for vaccines who are not yet vaccinated,” Bryan said during his weekly COVID-19 press briefing. “If you are a parent, we want to keep your children safe. Go ahead and get vaccinated.
Education officials had scheduled Jan. 10 as the date for students to resume in-person learning. On Tuesday, Bryan said that pending bi-weekly reassessments of the COVID-19 landscape, the plan for now is for students to return to in-person learning on January 24.
The governor said his decision was in response to the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the territory “fueled by the highly transmissible variant of omicron.”
Tuesday, there were 2,493 active cases in the territory including 1,205 in Sainte-Croix, 1,180 in Saint-Thomas and 97 in Saint-Jean, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.
The Department of Health’s medical director, Dr Tai Hunte-César, is calling on those vaccinated not to get tested immediately if they are suspected of exposure to the virus, but rather to wait and see if they show any symptoms.
“This is critical because our testing supplies will be depleted unless we test the people we absolutely need to test,” Hunte-Caesar said.
Over the past week, queues of residents looking for testing have meandered at testing sites across the territory.
Emergency rooms across the country are also crowded with COVID patients who could recover safely at home, according to Hunte-Caeser.
“You don’t need to go to the emergency room just because you feel sick or need to get tested,” she said. “You should only go to the emergency room if you have difficulty breathing or feel extremely weak. “
Currently, there are three people hospitalized at Luis de Sainte-Croix Hospital and seven at Schneider Hospital in Saint-Thomas. Hunte-Caeser said one of the patients at Schneider Hospital was a 1-year-old infant.
“This is a request coming directly from the pediatricians at our clinic,” Hunte-Caesar said, asking residents to stay home unless symptoms are severe. “The nation is seeing records of hospitalizations in the pediatric population and so are we. Currently, an infant is hospitalized at [Schneider] for more than a week. We pray for the recovery of this baby.
Bryan pointed out that his administration has continued to work to ensure hospitals are not overwhelmed.
“The interesting thing about it is that Dr. [Anthony] Fauci shared with us last week is that you are really not focused on the number of cases you have, but rather on the load that your hospitals can take, ”he said of the Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, during a White House briefing with the governors.
Bryan also said that although COVID cases are at an all time high, he remains cautiously optimistic that the number of cases will decline.
“I don’t want to speak too fast, but it looks like we’re starting to see a slight plateau from this push and hopefully this trend continues,” Bryan said.