COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands surged to 3,308 Thursday, a jump of 433 new infections as the Omicron variant of the disease continues to break records in the territory and around the world.
According to the V.I. Dept. of Health, St. Thomas accounted for 1,571 of the active infections, followed by St. Croix with 1,532, and St. John with 205. These are by far the highest numbers of Covid
-19 territory-wide and per island.
This wave of cases is driven by the extremely transmissible variant of Covid
-19 named Omicron. The good news is that the strain is drastically less severe than others before it, and it has essentially pushed out the deadlier Delta variant.
To that end, President Joe Biden
is preparing to change his strategy and messaging by telling Americans to accept the virus as part of daily life — seeing Covid
-19 as an endemic instead of a constant emergency. According to the major U.S. news publications, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, a group of Mr. Biden’s former health advisers called on the president to develop a new national strategy whose focus would be to address the virus as being here to stay.
According to WSJ, in a series of opinion articles published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, some health experts who advised Mr. Biden during the presidential transition outlined potential next steps for reducing transmission of the virus while accepting its enduring presence. They wrote that the Biden administration should establish thresholds for what level of hospitalizations and deaths from respiratory illnesses, including Covid
-19, would necessitate emergency measures.
WSJ said the authors also laid out measures the administration should take to better equip the country against Covid
-19 outbreaks, such as broadening vaccine
mandates to eventually include schoolchildren, phasing in vaccines
to target new variants, making low-cost testing more widely accessible, upgrading ventilation and air filtration systems in congregate settings, and providing N95 masks to the public.
When asked about the recommendations, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, stated that the president's "ultimate goal continues to be to defeat the virus." Currently, however, the administration's focus is on reducing hospitalizations and deaths while making more treatment available, she said. The administration would leave school districts to make their own decisions on vaccine
mandates for students.
The change in strategy comes as the U.S. battles a Covid
wave fueled by the Omicron variant. The difference this time is that cases are causing more mild reactions, but the major disruptions are upending daily life because of current protocols for people who test positive for Covid
-19. Thursday marked the 12th straight day of more than 1,000 flight cancellations, according to WSJ, and many states warned that ongoing testing shortages will make it harder to return people to work and school.
In the USVI, many government departments and agencies have closed in-person operations due to the rapid spread of Omicron, and on Tuesday Mr. Bryan announced the reopening of in-person learning for public schools would be pushed to Jan. 24th instead of the previous Jan. 10th schedule. In the meantime, students will learn virtually.
The president through appearances is starting to refine his messaging to convey that Covid
-19 will be here to stay and Americans must learn to live with it. “You can control how big an impact Omicron is going to have on your health,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re seeing Covid
-19 cases among [the] vaccinated in workplaces across America, including here at the White House. But if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected.”