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Coronavirus Update St. John, USVI

Sunday, March 22, 2020 Coronavirus update

wow this has been a whirlwind week. We are doing ok, so far 6 cases in the territory with about 40 results pending.

Most restaurants and bars as well as shops have announced their closure to protect their staff and following the 10 person rule. Pizza Pi, the pizza boat the last remaining food/drink option for charters announced their closure as well. Yesterday evening, the governor released an update via youtube which you can watch here. The key points below:

In line with the governor’s request for all non-essential businesses to seize all in-person business we will not be conducting any charters until further notice. We are available to transport passengers or goods should the need arise.

Guidelines:

  • Social and distancing at all times, 6 feet
  • Stay at home policy: Stay at home as much as possible
  • “Its ok to take a walk, it’s ok to take a drive but please refrain from congregating”
  • No camping for Easter
  • “Do not go to parties, bbq, picnics, enjoy the beach but stay away from people”

Effective Monday 23rd:

  • All bars will be closed
  • Restaurants take out only no inhouse dining
  • Taxi capacity cut down in half
  • Monitoring the ferries – meet with operators Monday

Effective Wednesday 25rd:

  • Stay at home order “not a curfew”
  • Keep as much people off the street as possible
  • No hotel, timeshare, airbnb allowed to accept new guest except government or medical personal
  • International message we want to send: “if you are coming to the Virgin Islands you will not have anywhere to stay for the next 30 days”
  • “Stay at home is not a curfew only PR has curfew. We are not imposing curfew. We are imposing stay at home”. This does not cover essential business: groceries, pet supplies, hardware stores, restaurants, food processing, gas stations, auto supply stores, car dealerships, banks and credit unions, garden stores, laundry services, building supplies are exempt as long as they keep customer rates under 10.
  • Further exempt are plumbers, electricians, exterminators, custodial services, handyman, funeral services, hvac installers and carpenters, anybody who deals with construction. Also exempt: Office supplies, shipping, delivery services, airlines, public transport, professional services, legal, accounting, places that provide shelters,

 

Thursday, March 19, 2020 Coronavirus update

More businesses (e.g. Banana Deck, Dog House Pub, Greengo’s, Pizza Bar in Paradise) have announced their closures and St. John Hardware is limiting hours to give staff time to rest and clean.

NPS Visitor Center and FVINP are closed as are the concessions at Trunk Bay and the guided Reef Bay Trail Hike.

Pizza Pi, the pizza boat announced closure as of tomorrow.

Cliff Notes from Governor’s Press Conference at 1pm today: 

3 confirmed cases in usvi, 21 tests pending

contact tracing underway

as of Saturday 6am max 10 people also for bars & restaurants excempt are large stores like home depot plaza extra etc that can ensure spacing

plaza extra special 7-10am shopping time for seniors

funerals are exempt

no camping on public beaches

effective monday government services limited to essential services

60 day extension on all license renewals (car, drivers license, business license)

there are still 1500 visitors in territory and no intention of closing airport

still 1500 visitors are in territory no requests to close airports at this time

 

TUESDAY, March 17, 2020 Coronavirus update

2nd confirmed case in the territory, while the first was St. Croix, the second is said to be in the St. Thomas/St. John district. 17 test are still pending. Again, the actual rate is probably much higher. Governor has closed schools starting tomorrow, cancelled St. Thomas carvinal and advised to only use the St. John – St. Thomas ferry for essential travel.

People were in and out of Pricesmart St. Thomas within 20minutes today and desinfecting products were stocked.

St. Thomas: Bolongo Bay Resort and Wyndham are closing until further notice.
St. John: Lime Out and Lime in were the first to announce their closure this morning, Lovango Rum Bar cancelled their grand opening, a little later in the day Soggy Dollar Bar, BVI as well as Skinny Legs and Extra Virgin announced their closure too
BVI: the BVI are closing their boarders to anyone but local residents, belongers and work permit holders on Thursday, March 19th for at least a month. No more BVI charters, sorry. Soggy Dollar Bar is closing as well.

More information on local closures here:

White house recommends avoiding crowds of more than 10 people and avoiding non-essential travel. It seems to be the concensus that staying home is the right thing to do. We had 5 cancellations in the last 24 hours.

As of today most St. John Bars and Restaurants are still open but many are promoting the take out option. People can still go to the beach, a curfew like in Puerto Rico is a possibility but our governor does not seem to be in the “err on the side of caution” camp, but maybe that is the way to achieve compliance, if he had cancelled carnival too early there would have been outrage.

SUNDAY, March 15, 2020

Good morning from sunny St. John, here is the latest update in light of the Corona Virus. We are not a news outlet and we cannot constantly update this article with new developments, this is a status report from Sunday, March 15th.

As of this morning,  it is still pretty much business as usual on St. John, the grocery stores are stocked (including toilet paper – both photos taken this morning) with no crazy lines and the bars and restaurants are open. Some crowded scenes at Cost U Less St. Thomas have been reported yesterday however. If you are coming over on the car barge, we recommend skipping the STT grocery stop to avoid the craziness and potential exposure to virus as well.

Coronavirus in the USVI

so far there is one confirmed case in the territory that is rumored to be on St. Croix. Reports about a death on CNN are false. It is of course likely that the actual number of cases is much higher, as there is no free health care or health insurance, people usually try to battle it out at home and locals are very good at beating illness with rest and natural remedies. So there is a chance that unknowingly some herd immunity has been built especially on St. Thomas which has been exposed to all the cruise ship travel. There is hope heat and the sun and clean air may potentially inhibit a rapid spread in the territory just like flu season is typical in the winter months. UV-light is a natural disinfectant and “open air treatment” was an acknowledged form of medical treatment for influenza during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic before antibiotics were available. Read all about it here

Of course by no means are we safe from the Virus here and a potential outbreak will be catastrophic with the limited health care facilities available. There are 120 hospital beds on St. Thomas and 8 in the ICU for 50.000+ inhabitants and maybe 100.000 visitors per month.

Puerto Rico

The governor of Puerto Rico (which has 4 confirmed and 17 suspected cases) has just ordered a curfew from 9pm to 5am until March 30th. There is a chance this will happen here too as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the virus. Hopefully people will still be allowed to go to beaches. Source:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/15/coronavirus-latest-news/#link-BBGT3QI5HJFS7IDCOPNFCGR6II

Should I cancel my trip to St. John, USVI in light of the Corona Virus?

This is a difficult question and here is my personal opinion. Of course, everybody has to evaluate the pros and cons based on their own circumstances.

As a local business owner who makes 100% of income from tourism and who has not left the island since the hurricanes I wish the ports and airports would be closed to spare our little island the exposure to this virus and to spare the visitors to make this hard decision. I appreciate visitors especially from high risk states or with previous travel or exposure to at risk regions / persons cancelling their trip to spare St. John but realistically the spot might be taken by last minute opportunists (yeah no school, cheap flights…). so those that have not booked yet, please think twice! Even healthy people can unknowingly transmit the virus. Personally I think the economic loss from less tourism is not as bad as the potentially catastrophic effect of a major outbreak here.

Those that have booked and have no choice of rescheduling, the most responsible thing is to self-quarantine at home for 2 weeks before travel and take every possible precaution to not get infected on the way over…..

We will issue a full refund if you decide to cancel but also appreciate customers changing to a random date in the future to ease the financial burden.

People with pre-existing medical conditions (heart/lung disease, auto-immune disease etc.) that might require hospitalization in case of infection, please avoid travel here, the health care is difficult without an outbreak already. Insurance that will air-lift you to the mainland in case of an emergency is always a good idea when travelling here no matter how young and healthy you are.

Being stuck on this island due to halt in air travel or airlines cancelling flights because they are not full/profitable or their crews are sick is also a possibility, maybe not a bad thing unless your presence is required at home or you need medical attention. Getting off island post hurricane was very very difficult and that was with the mainland fully functioning.

Another risk is that curfews might be issued so you would not be allowed to leave villa/hotel at night like it is currently in Puerto Rico, hopefully they will still allow beach visits during day.

This is a developing topic, so always check with CDC website for latest travel advisories.

Questions to help you come to a decision.

  1. Is there any chance I could be bringing the virus to the USVI
  2. Do I have insurance / financial resources to be airlifted to mainland in case of medical emergency (which can be completely unrelated to Covid-19) – healthcare here is fragile without a pandemic
  3. Do I have the flexibility / financial resources / stamina to stay on the island longer than planned (in case air travel is halted, airlines cancel flights or go bankrupt) ?

Can I still go on a private charter with Rockhoppin?

We are conducting business as usual for now but can only do USVI Trips as the BVI are closing their borders. We are taking extra pre-cautions to disinfect touch surfaces of the boat after each charter and we will no longer be providing snorkel gear. Even with careful disinfection there is a risk – too little is know how long the virus can survive on surfaces, the moist boxes of the boat could harbor it and staff handling/cleaning the gear would be at risk. We are also suspending snorkel gear rental with paddleboards at SUP-Stjohn.com, we don’t think these are times to share breathing equipment, if you would like to snorkel we recommend bringing / purchasing your own equipment for example at Low Key, Chelsea Drug Store or Kmart St. Thomas.

If you have travelled to at risk countries, are running a fever, have a dry cough or have been in contact with people under observation we ask you to do the right thing and cancel your charter to not contribute to the spread of the virus, your deposit will be refunded but you can also help our small business by just changing to a random date in the future.

Please take all the recommended hygiene measures that have been widely recommended, frequent hand washing/use of hand sanitizer, sneeze into tissue, no hand shakes, no shared cups etc.

BVI Trips and the Coronavirus

As of today USVI March 15th boats can still enter the BVI however only at Tortola Westend (no more check-in on Jost). Visitors have to fill out the health questionnaire below and depending on answers may be declined entry or asked to quarantine. We also expect longer wait times at customs. Of course you can change your destination to the 3/4 St. John or half day or full day and stay local at no costs. For food options we have pizza pi, the pizza boat  and the new Zozo’s H20 on Lovango. Lime Out has closed in light of the virus

http://www.rockhoppin.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PERSONAL-HEALTH-DECLARATION-FORM1.pdf-·-version-1.pdf

On Thursday, March 19th the BVI are closing their borders for at least a month, so no more BVI charters, sorry

Paddleboard Rental

you can cancel or reschedule your paddleboard rental free of charge the deposit will be refunded upon request but we ask you to consider letting it keep us for a future rental to ease the financial burden on our small business.

snorkeling-buck-island-sea-turtle

How can we help St. John?

Some people might decide to still visit to support their favorite island to support local businesses. Other ways to help are buying gift certificates at any shop or restaurant or to order gifts/souvenirs online. You can book a charter for a random day in the future www.rockhoppin.com/bookme (you can reschedule free or charge once you know your new travel dates) or pay the 100$ deposit for a future paddleboard rentat at sup-stjohn.com here: www.sup-stjohn.com/pay/

You were happy with your charter or paddleboard rental with us? Head over to tripadvisor and leave a nice review here!

To end on a positive note

St. John is resilient, we survided Irma and Maria and we will survive this. Maybe something good will come out of it, maybe in return our planet gets a break from C02 emission and pollution so maybe we slow climate change and get a hurricane season that is less devastating. Look at the before and after photo from China: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/03/04/811019032/why-chinas-air-has-been-cleaner-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak?fbclid=IwAR3lOKKbYwAnVUDN_dJ1XNbP7OTIXB003pOKhOy8q2UQlqnYl9PASz_iOp0

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We are open for business and St. John is ready for visitors

It has been a rough ride being hit by 2 category 5 hurricanes within 2 weeks in September 2017 and we are finally back online with high speed internet via a satellite dish we mounted on our roof terrace. The fiber optic cables for DSL and TV are still down in January 2018, 4 month past hurricane.

The maximum gust measured on St. John (before meter blew away) was 277mp/h (!) and the highest sustained windspeed was 207 mp/h, the highest sustained windspeed ever recorded anywhere in the world! These are numbers from local meters that were blown away in the storm so they are not part of the official recordings or statistics. In the official statistics, Hurricane Irma and Maria rank 2nd and 8th in the list of the strongest ever recorded Atlantic Hurricanes.

Our house, boat and paddleboards faired pretty well and sustained only minor damages considering the incredible wind speeds. We towed our 32 FS Regulator Powerboat out of the water and had it on a trailer in the boat yard, Captain Steve secured the trailer with sandscrews, straps, chains etc. to the ground and trees and yes, it stayed in place (some trailers were tipped over or went down the hill backwards).

The boat was hit by flying debris like pieces of roofing and rain that was pushed through any cracks with 200mp/h damaged some of the electronics like sonar depth/fish finder but it’s otherwise fine. A total of 450 boats were destroyed on St. John alone so we were very lucky. We have had only about 5 charters since the storm and are  currently performing some maintenance resuming charters February 1st.

Apologies if you emailed us and did not hear back we did not have internet for months and some messages might have been lost due to mailbox full or accidently deleted when going through 65.000 unread emails with a lot of them being spam. Please re-send your message and we will get back to you asap.

Is St. John ready for visitors past Hurricane?

We would say definitely yes, if you can live without cable tv and don’t mind little inconveniences like missing some missing street signs. Over 90% of the houses have power now. The Westin and Caneel Bay will remain closed until 2019 but there are lots of villas and apartments that survived the storm and are available for rent. All grocery stores are open, there is plenty of food and produce.

A lot of restaurants were destroyed but there are enough bars and restaurants open for a fun night out. All hiking trails and beaches are open and the water is clear and has been declared safe to swim. Some of the beaches are actually nicer than before (wider due to sand deposited by storm and downed shrubs) and there are actually some new beaches that have appeared since the storm  (due to sand deposits or places previously unaccessible due to vegetation). Everything is quiet and relaxed there is no struggle to find a parking space at beach and everybody is happy for any visitor showing up. The only place a little more crowded than before is the Starfish market parking its always full, lots of locals go there to conduct there business on the public wifi.

Repeat visitors will enjoy re-discovering their island, finding new beaches, driftwood sculptures on the beach and having different views from the hiking trails. I know a lot of you have helped with donations etc. but the best thing you can do for St. John is to come back and spend lots of money at the local businesses

As for our friends in the BVI they were hit pretty bad by the storm as well, but a few places have reopened so no matter if you want to go to Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Norman Island or Jost each place will have at least one bar or restaurant open. If you prefer to stay local, Pizza Pi and Abi are open as well.

 

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Amazing videos of full day snorkeling Trip with Rockhoppin’ Charters

Want to see some amazing underwater creatures? Captain Steve is the man who will take you to the best spots for snorkeling! Check out those amazing videos of Barracuda, Reef Squid and an Octobus by Photosnorkeler who recently booked a full day snorkeling trip with us!

Barracuda filmed while snorkeling at Booby Rock

Booby Rock is  a great snorkeling spot on the South Shore of St. John that is part of our full day snorkeling trip and can also be a stop on the day trip to Norman Island if you skip Jost and take the South Shore back

Octopus off Little St. James

Little St. James is North of St. John and if you go there you can also stop at Pizza Pi the Pizza boat which is re-opening December 3rd

Reef squid filmed while snorkeling at Tektike

Tektike is  a great snorkeling spot on the South Shore of St. John that is part of our full day snorkeling trip and can also be a stop on the day trip to Norman Island if you skip Jost and take the South Shore back

Carribean Reef Squid #stjohnusvi #stjohn #squid #tektite #newsofstjohn #stjohndaily

A video posted by Photo Snorkeler (@photo_snorkeler) on