The [US] Virgin Islands Department of Health 9DoH) on Friday, January 20, 2023, urged residents to take steps aimed at protecting their health as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge on St Croix, with the department registering 247 cases on the island as of Friday.
DoH is also anticipating the arrival of the XBB.1.5 Omicron variant of Covid
-19, the latest highly contagious strain that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is accounting for 43 percent of all cases on the US mainland.
With these worrying trends unfolding, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion has been encouraging residents to get vaccinated with the newer bi-valent vaccine
, which has been specifically formulated to provide protection from the past Covid
-19 variants like Beta and Delta, as well as the newer Omicron and its subvariants like XBB1.1 and XBB1.5. The bi-valent vaccine
is available throughout the territory and is currently the best protection residents can obtain to prevent severe illness and hospitalisation, DoH said.
CDC recommending bi-valent vaccine
According to the health department, in late summer of last year, the CDC recommended that the original monovalent vaccine
no longer be used as a booster because studies showed the vaccine
to be ineffective for fighting Omicron variants. Instead, the CDC recommended the bi-valent vaccine
be administered for all future booster shots.
On September 6, 2022, the VI Department of Health announced the availability of the new bi-valent vaccine
for both adults and children as booster doses.
"Since then, 3,277 individuals have been boosted with the bi-valent vaccine
in the [US] Virgin Islands. Please note, the original monovalent vaccine
is still being given to persons receiving their first and second vaccines
," DoH said.
DoH is also urging residents who have administered the at-home Covid
-19 tests and have received positive results, to get a confirmation test through the health department. "Persons who test positive in conformation testing done by the VIDOH are eligible for medications that can lessen the severity of the illness, possibly shorten its duration, and help avert hospitalisation," the department said.
"Virgin Islanders are reminded that although the best source of protection from Covid
are just one of the measures to help stop the spread of the virus," DoH said. "Residents are urged to also wear a mask or facial covering when in crowded areas, practice social distance from persons with whom you do not reside, and to frequently wash or sanitize your hands regardless of your vaccination status."
As of Friday there were 296 active Covid
-19 cases territory-wide: 247 on St Croix, 45 on St Thomas and 4 on St John, according to data from the Department of Health.
The territory's positivity rate stood at 15.9 percent.