November 6th, 2017 – An estimated $23 million has been approved for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).
Governor Kenneth E. Mapp made the announcement on Friday at Government House in St. Croix, stating that the funds will cover approximately 38,000 residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands – those who will qualify for both the pre-existing SNAP and the disaster-related D-SNAP programs.
On October 31, the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the request by the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services to operate a D-SNAP food-purchasing assistance program in the Territory. Residents who currently receive benefits under the “regular” SNAP program need not apply for D-SNAP.
The Governor said the Department of Human Services will facilitate the application process for seven days, beginning Monday, November 6 through Thursday, November 9. It will resume from Monday, November 13 until Wednesday, November 15 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
D-SNAP is expected to provide two months of supplemental funding for food assistance.
On Friday, the Governor, along with his Commissioner of Human Services Felecia Blyden and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michelle Davis, met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec to discuss waiving the Medicaid match for three years.
This Sunday, United States Senator Lisa Murkowski, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, will visit the U.S. Virgin Islands with fellow committee members. Governor Mapp will accompany the delegation to visit hurricane-stricken sites in the Territory as they prepare for a November 14 Senate hearing on hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Governor Mapp reported that he will provide to Virgin Islands Delegate to the House of Representatives Stacey Plaskett an update to Congress on the Territory’s rebuilding needs, which are expected to grow by an additional $2 billion dollars.
Residents were advised that the deadline for application to the Blue Roof Program has been extended to November 23 due to its slow start.
Mona Barnes, Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), encouraged residents to call 1 888 766 3258 or apply in person at a District Recovery Center (DRC). All persons with damaged roofs are encouraged to apply to the program, even if homes have no frame or an insufficient frame. DRCs have representatives who will assist them between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except at St. Peter’s Church on St. Croix, which is closed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, and Rotary Club St. Croix West, which operates on alternate Sundays.
While in St. Thomas on Friday, Governor Mapp and Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty surveyed the cleanup work across the island. The Governor observed that roads were generally clear and noted more trash bins were being secured to assist with the removal of debris and waste on the road side. “We are going to make a concerted effort to clean it up,” he assured.
According to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) an increasing number of communities are now “energized”. Approximately 21 percent of residents have power across the Territory. Linemen will continue to support power restoration works and an additional 200 professionals are expected in the Territory this month. WAPA is on track to restore power to 90 percent of the Virgin Islands by Christmas.
St. Croix School District Superintendent Colleen Mae Williams announced that six elementary schools in the St. Croix district will re-open on Monday: Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, Alexander Henderson Elementary School, Eulalie Rivera Elementary School, Alfredo Andrews Elementary School, Ricardo Richards Elementary School, and Lew Muckle Elementary School. Morning sessions will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; afternoon sessions will run from 12:00 noon to 4:30 p.m. Parents are encouraged to note new pick-up times and bus stop designations for their children.
With the support of federal partners as well as Virgin Islanders “taking ownership” of the response to the disasters, Governor Mapp stated that he has great confidence in the future of the Virgin Islands. “What could our outlook be, if not positive? What could our expectation be, if not vibrant and strong and exuberant about the road that we are on, as we march on into the future of the lives of the people of the Virgin Islands?”
Governor Mapp extended condolences to the family of Bernadine Bailey, otherwise known as “Big B” of Frederiksted. The Governor described the late Mr. Bailey as a friend, a confidante and “a real trooper, a real Virgin Islander”.
All government and public agency employees across the Territory have been advised to return to their normal eight-hour work day effective Monday, November 6, at 8 a.m.
October 31st, 2017 – The curfew in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been lifted by Governor Kenneth E. Mapp.
Making the announcement at Government House in St. Croix on Monday, Governor Mapp also encouraged the Territory’s residents to exercise caution, especially at night as full power and street lighting have yet to be restored on the islands.
As the Territory continues to move toward normalcy, Governor Mapp also reported that $3 million worth of tax refunds were issued Monday.
Governor Mapp confirmed the Territory is expected to receive an estimated $800 million from the $4.9 billion approved for emergency operating loans for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which is part of the $36.5 billion supplemental disaster recovery spending bill approved by the U.S. Congress. He said the first drawdown would take place within the next 10-15 days and will go to central government and essential services such as hospitals, the Virgin Islands Port Authority and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority. “These are monies to replace revenues that are lost as a result of the disaster, and … will go across three fiscal years.”
Governor Mapp cautioned that some residents may not qualify for disaster loans and grants even though they have damaged property. Noting that the cost of construction is higher in the Territory than on the U.S. mainland, the Governor reported he is working with William ‘Bill’ Vogel, Federal Coordinating Officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region II, to ensure “we have the safety nets that are required to make sure that we are addressing the needs of our community.”
To address some immediate needs, Governor Mapp is seeking options to provide temporary housing for affected residents. “We need to implement a program to find some temporary housing stock for residents of the Virgin Islands,” he stated.
The Blue Roof program, which provides roofing tarpaulins, continues to be rolled out across the Territory, with approximately 2,200 roofs installed to date.
In support of recovery efforts, another Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) will open on St. Thomas later this week. There are currently 179 staff working at DRCs. Vogel reported that nearly 400 people visited the nine active DRCs on Sunday, which he contended indicated an ongoing need for services.
Approximately 31,500 persons have registered for individual assistance and more than $10 million has been dispersed through the Individuals and Households Program. The Small Business Administration has approved 250 home loans and a dozen to businesses, amounting to more than $22 million in low-interest loans.
As the Territory prepares to welcome cruise ships, Governor Mapp will meet with the Chief Executive Officer of Disney Cruise Line on St. Thomas on Wednesday. Additionally, the Governor and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michelle Davis are scheduled on Friday to meet with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan.
Governor Mapp encouraged residents to be patient as restoration work continues and urged residents to express gratitude to the linemen and all those working to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands.
October 19th, 2017 – The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands is “pushing hard” to have Cruz Bay, St. John, energized next week, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp assured the public.
Speaking to reporters at Government House, St. Croix, during his Wednesday evening press conference, Governor Mapp said off-island linemen will join workers from the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) on St. John Thursday morning to support WAPA’s power restoration efforts.
On Wednesday, Governor Mapp visited St. John, where he spoke with members of the community, business owners and National Park Service staff. The Governor visited both Cruz Bay and Coral Bay and several other sites on the island, including Trunk Bay, Calabash Boom Housing Community and the landfill. He agreed there is still much work yet to be done on the island, but assured residents that St. John remains a priority.
“You’re not being forgotten,” he said. He added that the goal of energizing Cruz Bay next week will undoubtedly “bring a sense of hope and a spirit of recovery, as you’re going to see your power distribution system being rebuilt.”
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to work toward the goal of restoring power to 90 percent of the Territory by Christmas, Governor Mapp explained that only homes with unbreached roofs are eligible for power restoration. WAPA cannot connect power to homes covered with tarpaulins or with other temporary fixtures. Likewise, homes with damaged or broken weatherheads will not be serviced.
The Governor is scheduled to meet with the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority Roger Merritt on Thursday to discuss “picking up the pace” of trash and debris removal on St. John. Federal Coordinating Officer of FEMA Region II William “Bill” Vogel reported about 75,000 cubic yards of debris have been removed from the Territory to date.
Governor Mapp and Commissioner of Labor Catherine Hendry reported there are many job opportunities available within the Territory. There are currently 2,117 positions registered at the Department of Labor. Residents interested in learning about these opportunities can visit www.vidol.gov or stop by the Department of Labor’s offices. People who lost employment as a result of Hurricane Irma must file a claim with the Department of Labor by October 30. The deadline for filing a claim related to Hurricane Maria is November 7. The St. Croix Department of Labor is reopening its Sion Farm facility effective Thursday, October 19.
Governor Mapp reported that prior to Hurricane Irma he filed a petition with the Council on Environmental Quality for three major projects in the Territory that would be significant employment drivers. He has been notified by the Council that these projects may qualify for approval, pending further assessment. If approved, 1,500 jobs in the private sector could be created.
FEMA’s Vogel reported the agency continues to work on clearing harbors, improving cellular communications, clearing debris and installing generators and blue roofs throughout the Territory. More than 125 blue roofs were installed on Wednesday; 893 have been installed to date.
Vogel reminded Virgin Islanders to be cautious of individuals impersonating FEMA inspectors. He said FEMA’s housing inspectors will not ask for personal information over the phone, via text or online; they will only contact residents to make appointments. Residents can report suspected fraud by calling the FEMA fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721.
The Office of the Lieutenant Governor will resume offering its services on Friday, October 20.
Commissioner of Education Dr. Sharon McCollum reported eight schools remain closed on St. Croix: Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School; Lew Muckle Elementary School; Alfredo Andrews Elementary School; Eulalie R. Rivera Elementary School; Alexander Henderson Elementary School; John H. Woodson Junior High School; Elena L. Christian Junior High School; and Arthur A. Richards Junior High School.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is now open throughout the Territory, offering limited services. The Department is not able to issue driver’s licenses or identification cards at this time.
Effective immediately, uniform curfew hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be in place across all four Virgin Islands.
Governor Mapp thanked the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands for their continued patience during the hurricane recovery period, and assured: “We are in fact making progress.”
October 14th, 2017 – Power restoration in the U.S. Virgin Islands is ramping up with the arrival of more linemen in the Territory.
Speaking to reporters at Government House, St. Croix on Friday, Governor Kenneth
E. Mapp announced that 60 linemen began orientation on St. Thomas on Friday to assist the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) with repairing and installing power lines. An additional 100 restoration professionals will arrive on St. Croix on Saturday, and 50 more will be in St. Thomas on Sunday.
By the end of the month, more than 500 linemen will be working on rebuilding the U.S. Virgin Islands’ power distribution system. The goal is to have power restored to more than 90 percent of the homes and businesses on all four Virgin Islands before Christmas.
Governor Mapp shared that he had requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ work in the Territory be expanded to include a complete assessment of the entire power generation system to include the cost of burying lines. “We are going to work towards a more resilient power production and distribution system,” he stated.
The Governor also announced that Saturday, November 11, is the official date on which the U.S. Virgin Islands will reopen for cruise traffic, with St. Croix expecting to receive at least 90 calls for the cruise season, more than double the number of calls scheduled before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Territory. St. Thomas will also see an increase in scheduled visits; details will be announced next week. Meetings with the business community will be scheduled to ensure adequate preparations are made before visitors arrive.
Governor Mapp disclosed that homes that have previously been disqualified for receiving heavy-duty tarpaulins under the Blue Roof program – due to insufficient roof frames – will now be able to receive assistance from contractors working with the Department of Public Works. Under the new arrangement, contractors will be able to install additional frames to support heavy tarpaulins. Virgin Islanders can apply for aid at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Centers. “The plan is to make sure homes are properly constructed and made habitable and safe,” he said.
National Guard Adjutant General Deborah Howell reported that Thursday, October 12, was the last day of operation for the Points of Distribution. Roll-out of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) will be postponed several weeks until power has been restored to more residences in the Territory, helping people to keep perishable food items from spoiling.
Hurricane shelters will close next week to allow the Department of Education full use of the school buildings. Governor Mapp stressed that those being sheltered in school buildings will be relocated or assisted in returning to their homes when possible.
The Governor announced that schools on St. Croix are expected to open on Monday, October 23, one week later than originally planned. Some schools in St. Croix will be merged. Commissioner of Education Dr. Sharon McCollum will give a detailed report early next week about these and other plans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially declared the U.S. Virgin Islands a disaster area. The declaration opens the door for farmers to receive special assistance and support such as loans and access to disaster assistance programs.
Farmers in eligible areas are given eight months from the disaster designation to submit their emergency loan requests. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said each application would be considered in light of the extent of lost production and the capacity of the farmer to repay the loan.
Commissioner of Health Dr. Michelle Davis announced that insulin, as well as flu and tetanus vaccines, will be available to the public on Wednesday, October 18, at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Referring to the mid-November deadline for applying for individual disaster assistance from FEMA, Governor Mapp stated he will be requesting a 60-day extension due to the fact that less than 25 percent of the Territory’s residents have access to power, and internet connectivity is not widely available, making it difficult for people to apply.
Governor Mapp will visit St. John on Tuesday, October 17, for an in-depth visit to assess the recovery progress and to speak with residents living on the island.
October 11th, 2017 – “Getting school open was a big step in the direction towards some sense of normalcy,” U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp told reporters Tuesday at Government House in St. Croix.
While all schools were not ready to open, more than 270 teachers and close to 2,000 students turned up for classes in the St. Thomas-St. John district on Tuesday. “There were some issues with connectivity, but they were able to stay in school and work,” said Governor Mapp, adding that more work is needed to get all students across the Territory back to school.
Governor Mapp thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their technical team as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the work they have done to help bring the islands back on track.
Meanwhile, the Governor announced that effective Wednesday, October 11, the curfew hours will be expanded from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island. On St. Croix, the curfew will be in effect from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. The decision was made in response to concerns that the previously enforced 8 p.m. curfew permitted drivers to be on the roads in dark and potentially unsafe conditions.
Lily Alvarez, Disaster Manager for the American Red Cross of the U.S. Virgin Islands, reported more than 200 volunteers have assisted with relief efforts. She stated that “since Hurricane Irma, the Red Cross has provided comfort, shelter, feeding and clean-up supplies to residents affected by both hurricanes.” Sixty-five thousand meals and snacks have been shared; and 3,500 clean-up kits and 54,000 bulk items (tarps, bags, etc.) have been distributed, Alvarez reported, confirming that the Red Cross will continue to work with community partners to plan long-term assistance across the Territory.
Thursday will be the last day that emergency food and water is given out at the FEMA Points of Distribution. Governor Mapp encouraged eligible residents to apply for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) cards and other types of assistance.
Commissioner of Labor Catherine Hendry announced that the last day to take Disaster Unemployment Assistance Programme (DUA) claims related to Hurricane Irma is October 30, 2017. The deadline for claims related to Hurricane Maria is November 7, 2017.
Governor Mapp commended Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty, members of the Department of Tourism, the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) and the West Indian Company (WICO) for hosting the senior management team of Royal Caribbean Cruises, who spent the afternoon meeting with representatives of the public and the private sector to discuss the cruise line’s continued partnership with the Territory. Royal Caribbean provided two mercy missions to help visitors and residents leave the Territory last month.
Representing Royal Caribbean were Chairman Richard Fain; President and Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein; President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley; and Federico Gonzalez-Denton, Associate Vice President, Government Relations Latin America, Caribbean and South Florida.
After arriving in St. Thomas, the Royal Caribbean contingent headed to Crown Bay to meet with Governor Mapp; the Commissioner of Tourism; Commissioner of Public Works Nelson Petty, Jr.; Executive Director of VIPA David Mapp; Chief Executive Officer of WICO Clifford Graham; Crown Bay District Manager Ava Penn; Julio Rhymer, Executive Director of WAPA; and members of the business community.
Following the meeting, the Royal Caribbean officials were taken on a tour to witness the progress made in preparing the Territory for the return of cruise visitors in the coming months. The group toured Charlotte Amalie and Magens Bay before departing the Territory Tuesday afternoon.
“Hopefully in the next number of days we will be making a formal announcement about the return of cruise traffic to the Territory,” said Governor Mapp, who noted that the Government has received a significant number of requests for cruise visits to St. Croix. The Governor will meet with the Department of Tourism and the Port Authority to develop a rational strategy to handle the visits. He noted that “the turnstiles cannot be opened without adequate infrastructure in place … to ensure that visitors can have a good and safe time and a very positive experience.”
Availability of airline seats to and from the U.S. Virgin Islands is currently limited, the Governor reported, and his team is working to increase flights.
The Governor reiterated his thanks to longtime USVI resident Richard J Stephenson, founder and chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America and of International Capital & Management Company (ICMC), and his family for their $5 million contribution to the relief efforts in the Territory. At a press conference Tuesday morning, the Stephenson family announced they will donate $2 million immediately and pledge $3 million as a matching fund. In addition, the Stephensons have coordinated hurricane relief efforts, delivering medical supplies, food and generators to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Governor Mapp thanked the employees of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) “for the very dangerous work they do.” Over the weekend, Governor Mapp, along with many members of his Cabinet and the community, attended the funeral services for the late WAPA lineman Jason Julius, who lost his life while contributing towards the recovery of the Virgin Islands.
The Administration shared its deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of both Jason Julius and Ishmael Harrigan, a sergeant in the Virgin Islands National Guard and the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections, who died as a result of Hurricane Irma.
October 5th, 2017 – The Vice President of the United States is set to arrive in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday to witness the impact of the recent hurricanes on the Territory and the various recovery efforts that are underway.
Addressing reporters from Government House on St. Croix on Thursday, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp said Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, will arrive on St. Croix with the U.S. Virgin Islands delegate in the nation’s capital, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett.
The Governor announced he has begun the process of reaching out to the U.S. Congress seeking authorization of a special community disaster loan for the U.S. Virgin Islands and additional funds to fix infrastructure, hospitals, schools, police and fire stations, government buildings as well as expanding the underground power distribution system.
The Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Jerome Adams and his team from the Department of Health and Human Services were warmly welcomed by the Governor to a working session, which examined the assembly of modular hospital units for St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.
“We believe in two to three weeks, people will be seeing portions of those units going into service throughout the Territory,” the Governor assured. Some of the Territory’s pharmacies are still relying on private courier services for the delivery of important prescription stock. Dr. Adams and his team have been asked to help secure critical care medicines for the people of the Territory.
Dr. Adams noted that the situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands is “truly unprecedented”. “It really is a situation that is going to take time, and I appreciate the Governor helping to modulate expectations,” he added.
The Surgeon General offered his assurances that the federal government is working as quickly as possible, declaring, “we are responding as fast as we are able to but we will continue to get better and better each and every day until we are positive that we’ve done right by the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
Governor Mapp stated that the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) is in the process of repairing a breach to the underlying power grid that runs into Frederiksted. “It is not going to be a sprint; this is a long haul,” he noted, urging residents to manage expectations and recalling that Hurricane Maria struck the Territory just over two weeks ago.
The Territory’s leader reiterated that damaged infrastructure “cannot and will not be fixed overnight,” adding that restoring “access to food, water, medicine, medical care, that’s what’s important at this stage of the recovery.”
Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty confirmed the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix reopened Thursday, October 5, with the operation of American Airlines and JetBlue Airways commercial flights to South Florida. She added that the U.S. Customs pre-clearance process was managed in St. Croix.
Within the next seven to 10 days cruise line executives will be visiting the Territory to prepare for the return of cruise calls to the destination, the Commissioner reported. Assessments of the tourism product were ongoing, including on the island of St. John, where the Department’s team spent time on Thursday. Cruise line partners will be briefed on Friday, October 6, on what will be operational across the Territory in the weeks ahead.
Commissioner of Labor Catherine Hendry announced that two employers in the St. Thomas/St. John district have expressed interest in hiring approximately 300 local workers with skills in carpentry and general labor, while in the St. Croix district, six employers have vacancies for positions in the construction field. There are also opportunities available for administrative workers in both districts to assist insurance companies with the processing of claims. The Department of Labor is providing pre-screening for the upcoming positions and Commissioner Hendry said the vacancies will be posted in the Virgin Islands Electronic Workforce System as early as October 11.
From Friday, October 6, through Monday, October 9, the curfew in St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island will be in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and on St. Croix between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.
October 5th, 2017 – Support is on the way to help restore power across the Territory, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp announced at his Administration’s press conference on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Governor explained that the Virgin Islands has received access to approximately $35 million of a request for $70 million from the federal government to use for power restoration, road clearing and debris removal.
He explained that towards the end of next week, the Territory will welcome 240 linemen and additional equipment. Thereafter, linemen will arrive in waves of 50 to work in tandem with the team at the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA).
Governor Mapp expressed concern over the steady operation of the wastewater treatment systems in the Territory. He said standby power is being supplied to those facilities thanks to federal partners, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but additional assistance may be required for the sustainable operations of the systems.
The Governor also announced that the school year for the St. Thomas/St. John district will end on July 12, 2018. While schools are planned to reopen in St. Thomas and St. John on Monday, October 9, Governor Mapp was hopeful for a Monday, October 16 start in St. Croix. He said the Government’s immediate priority would be senior students.
President of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Dr. David Hall announced that the university will resume classes on Monday, October 9, on both campuses. He said immediately after Hurricane Irma, UVI began sharing with students its principle of “holding them harmless” – saving the semester so students’ progress toward graduation will not be delayed. “We are going to offer every class that was originally scheduled … so a student will get what they were promised.”
Calling for flexibility and creativity from teachers, Dr. Hall explained the university would make adjustments for the lost time, such as extending class length and potentially offering classes online or on weekends. The semester will be extended until December 22, and exams for this semester will be held during the first week of January next year.
The Points of Distribution (PODs) will be closed over the next several days, and are scheduled to reopen Tuesday, October 10, and Thursday, October 12, as the Territory transitions to the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) and needs are supported by supermarkets.
The Governor announced further shrinking of the curfew: In the St. Thomas/St. John district, the curfew will be in effect from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., while in St. Croix, the curfew has been reduced to 7 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Heartened by his conversation with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló on Tuesday, Governor Mapp announced there will be a celebration in Christiansted on Monday, October 9, to recognize Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day. “Because we have both shared Irma and Maria, we do not want this year’s date to go unnoticed,” Governor Mapp said, speaking of the close relationship and shared history between the two territories.
Health Commissioner Dr. Michelle Davis announced that her office is coordinating the planned visit to St. Croix of U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on Thursday, October 5. The island will be tapping a team of vector control staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist with mosquito control. Communicators will also arrive to assist the Department of Health with providing information to the public about eliminating mosquitoes and larvae, and protecting themselves against bites.
Governor Mapp and Mona Barnes, Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), welcomed the Danish Emergency Management Agency to the Territory. The Danes spent the day Wednesday working closely with officials at the Department of Education.
October 3rd, 2017 – Governor Kenneth E. Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands will meet U.S. President Donald J. Trump during the American leader’s visit to the Caribbean on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at Government House, St. Croix, on Monday, Governor Mapp said he, along with Adjutant General Deborah Howell, Virgin Islands Police Department Commissioner Delroy Richards, Sr. and Mona Barnes, Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), will meet the U.S. President on a Navy vessel between Puerto Rico and Vieques to discuss relief and recovery efforts following September’s back-to-back hurricanes.
A priority for the meeting, said Governor Mapp, was to hasten the roll-out of the Blue Roof program to “get folks out of the elements”. He would request a directive from President Trump to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open up the process to additional contractors.
Trying to do the Blue Roof program with one main contractor and then that contractor sub-contracting the work, is going to be a dismal failure,” Governor Mapp said. “It was a dismal failure during Hurricane Marilyn because what happens is that the main contractor creates a pricing structure for the sub-contractors that they will not accept, and the reality is we simply want to get people’s roofs covered,” he said.
Among the items on the agenda for the Governor’s meeting with the President is the Administration’s support for a special community disaster loan under the Stafford Act that must be enacted and funded by the U.S. Congress; funding for infrastructure repairs, including the islands’ hospitals and schools; mitigation to lay the Territory’s power lines underground; and assistance with fee schedules for hospitals and an increased federal share of Medicaid program costs.
He lamented the latest problems caused by heavy downpours, “because we’re not fit for rain” with shelters, health services and government buildings being flooded.
The Governor thanked everyone for their resolve and resilience in helping the Territory recover: “It’s been a daunting challenge, but we continue to make progress … because our federal partners have stepped up to the plate – they’ve delivered, our local community and our business community have delivered, our public sector workers have done a daunting task (with) the number of hours that many of them have put in … volunteers and families have been out on the road helping – I just want to big up everyone and thank everyone,” he said.
It was a consolidated Territory-wide approach that he wanted to preserve: “We need to continue to work together as a community to ensure a fast and a wholesome recovery. … We are not going to recover for speed’s sake – we want to make sure our recovery is filled with quality, that we’re building resilience … because hurricanes are going to be a part of our lives. They are going to be coming more often and they are going to be more ferocious.”
With the arrival of AT&T’s barges, and the visiting technicians working with local counterparts, three of the 28 towers in the Territory are now functional. “Folks in the Territory should begin to see more connectivity and more access for communications going forward,” he said.
Governor Mapp was heartened to see “a sense of normalcy” returning with reduced lines for gas and groceries, so starting Tuesday, October 3, he ordered the curfew in the St. Thomas/St. John district reduced from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m, and on St. Croix from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. However, more debris has to be cleared on St. Croix before the curfew can be shrunk any further.
Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty reported that, to date, a total of 4,500 residents and visitors have been evacuated from the U.S. Virgin Islands through the generosity of the Territory’s cruise and airline partners. She thanked Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises for their assistance in providing humanitarian relief and mercy missions from the Territory. A total of 3,000 passengers have now left the Territory on mercy cruises. She also thanked Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and, in particular, JetBlue Airways, for helping transport some 1,500 passengers by air.
Assessments have begun of hotels and tourism-related businesses in both districts as the Department focuses on the Territory’s readiness for visitors for the upcoming tourist season. Discussions are ongoing with cruise and airline partners, with the latter focusing on normalizing flight schedules.
Commissioner Nicholson-Doty shared her deepest thanks to the Department of Tourism team and the number of volunteers who have helped with organizing the mercy missions. She also announced a visitor information center will open in Christiansted, St. Croix, on Wednesday, October 4.
VITEMA Director Barnes reported that Points of Distribution (POD) dispersal continues to be successful and about 1,000 tarpaulins were distributed Monday.
Health Commissioner Dr. Michelle Davis reported that an additional mental health team had arrived in the Territory to provide services on St. Thomas and St. Croix on Monday. The Association of Virgin Islands Psychologists has also conducted counselling, while federal behavioral mental health teams have been visiting shelters throughout the Territory to provide mental health services. There is one team per island comprising psychologists, social workers and a psychiatrist. “They’ll be available for anyone that wants to see them,” Commissioner Davis said, adding that the federal teams will continue to provide this support all week long. Arrangements are also being made for the Cabinet and their staff members who want to avail themselves of these services.
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