Dept. of Health Reduces Covid Report Frequency Amid Low Positivity Rate; Schools Pilot Influenza-Like Illness Testing Program
The Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH) has decided to reduce the frequency of its epidemiological reports on Covid-19 from daily to weekly, as announced by VIDOH Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis during the Government House’s weekly press briefing on Monday. This change comes as the territory sees a consistently low Covid-19 positivity rate, currently at 2.5%, and decreasing case numbers since last month’s winter surge.
There are now 16 active cases across the territory, with 8 on St. Thomas, 7 on St. Croix, and 1 on St. John. Out of these cases, only three require hospitalization at the Schneider Regional Medical Centre on St. Thomas. Dr. Ellis stated that the territory’s Covid numbers continue to trend downward with minimal fluctuations, which led to the decision to shift to weekly reporting. The reports will remain accessible on the VIDOH website.
In related news, Dr. Ellis announced the rollout of the department’s “Influenza-like Illness” pilot program at six elementary schools in the territory. Claude O. Markoe Elementary and Good Hope Country Day schools on St. Croix, VI Montessori and Lockhart Elementary schools on St. Thomas, and Gifft Hill Elementary and Julius E. Sprauve schools on St. John will participate in the program. Students at these schools will have access to free testing for influenza-A, influenza-B, RSV, and Covid-19, provided they have parental consent.
Families who participate in the program will receive their students’ test results directly to their cell phones or email addresses within 24 to 48 hours, in most cases. The Department of Health will also gather absentee data from the participating schools to collect information about respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other illnesses impacting student populations. Dr. Ellis explained that this data would help customize prevention strategies and allocate treatment resources to schools experiencing outbreaks.
Furthermore, the collected data will contribute to the development of a dashboard that can be consulted by school administrators, parents, and the wider community to make informed decisions about activities and prevention strategies.
The V.I. Dept. of Health has managed to distribute 17,000 Covid-19 home testing kits to students for household use as needed, with a second round of distribution currently in progress. Dr. Ellis emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated against both Covid-19 and influenza, reiterating that vaccines remain the best protection against the viruses.