Effective immediately, would-be U.S. Virgin Islands travelers will be required to apply for certification via an online portal designed to pre-screen visitors for coronavirus prior to their arrival.
The portal will process and evaluate COVID-19 test information submitted by travelers from “highly impacted areas” within 24 to 48 hours, with a “certification code” issued immediately upon completion, said U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism officials in a statement.
“Highly impacted” areas are defined as U.S. states with COVID-19 positivity rates greater than 10 percent. Travelers age 15 and older from such areas will be required to produce a negative COVID-19 antigen (molecular/PCR/rapid) test result within five days prior to their travel to the territory, or a positive COVID-19 antibody test result received within four months of their travel. The requirements also apply to residents of Puerto Rico.
Travelers will be processed upon their arrival in the territory by Virgin Islands Port Authority personnel utilizing portal certification data in conjunction with the Department of Health and the Virgin Islands National Guard. Arriving visitors will also undergo temperature checks via thermal scanners.
Passenger with temperatures readings above 100.4°F will be escorted by Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH) and/or the Virgin Islands National Guard (VING) personnel to a quarantine area for a second screening.
VIDOH/VING personnel will retake the passenger’s temperature after a 10-minute break. If the reading is below 100.4°F and the traveler has answered “no” to all questions contained in the Traveler Screening protocol currently used to evaluate guests, the passenger will be free to continue their visit.
Travelers with readings still at or above 100.4°F or who have answered “yes” to any questions will be required to go directly to their accommodations and self-quarantine while awaiting VIDOH COVID-19 testing within the next 24 hours.
Arriving visitors who are unable to produce the required certification will be subject to quarantine for 14 days or until they are able to receive the required test result while in the Territory. All arriving U.S. Virgin Islands passengers are required to wear a facial covering upon disembarkation from their transportation in accordance with local guidelines.
U.S. Virgin Islands officials said portal screening and certification will eventually replace the existing manual procedure, which requires the physical completion and review of a COVID-19 Traveler Screening protocol at ports of entry.
COVID-19 test results are also recommended, but not required, for travelers age 15 and older who have spent more than seven days in and are traveling from a state with a positivity rate greater than 10 percent, officials said. Positivity rates are based on Johns Hopkins University data and analysis, officials said.
The U.S. Virgin Islands government will “provide oversight with respect to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance and other best practices to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of user information and personal data,” officials added.
“Our team has been working tirelessly to adapt to a rapidly changing operational environment in this ‘open doors’ phase of the pandemic,” said Joseph Boschulte, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ tourism commissioner. “We continue to update our practices and procedures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.”
The secure portal is the result of a joint initiative of Albert Bryan, the U.S. Virgin Islands governor, the Virgin Islands Department of Health, the Virgin Islands Port Authority, the Ports of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Department of Tourism.
As of July 31, the U. S. Virgin Islands reported 421 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 15 new cases and eight deaths. A total of 341 people are listed as “recovered.”