The Department of Health confirms the first COVID-19 variant in the territory as health officials push to get more Virgin Islanders vaccinated.
After receiving preliminary results, the Department of Health’s Division of Epidemiology has confirmed by sequencing that all 19 samples from St. Thomas are of the variant B.1.1.7 (“the UK Variant”).
As new positive cases rise amongst unvaccinated individuals, there is a greater chance for the virus to mutate. These mutations can quickly spread across the islands and are known to be highly contagious.
Full sequencing has been conducted and these confirmatory results further underscore the importance of community immunity by way of vaccination.
B.1.1.7 is estimated to be 40%–80% (with most estimates occupying the middle to higher end of this range) more transmissible than the wild-type SARS-CoV-2, the original strain.
Twenty-seven additional samples have been identified as preliminary positives. Confirmation is pending until next week. Those samples are from cases on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Fortunately, we do not have the Delta strain in the territory yet. It has been identified in Puerto Rico in one traveler thus far. The Department monitors COVID-19 relations in neighboring islands as inter-island travel can add to the spread of the virus.
Mutations can make the virus more virulent and could potentially cause it to be resistant to the vaccine in the future. The sooner more residents get vaccinated, the risk will decrease. It is important for everyone 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now that vaccines are readily available, all Covid related hospitalizations and deaths are preventable because the vaccines are protective against all known variants.
To schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, please call (340) 777-8227 or visit covid19usvi.com/vaccines. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins at our Community Vaccination Centers are also accepted.
St. Croix’s Community Vaccination Center is located at the Nissan Center on St. Croix which is in La Grande Princesse, adjacent to the Honda Dealership and The Paint Shop, on the same side of the street as Food Town.
On St. Thomas the Community Vaccination Center is located at the Community Health Clinic on the 2nd floor at the Schneider Regional Medical Center.