US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association
“Getting school open was a big step in the direction towards some sense of normalcy,” U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp told reporters Oct. 10 at Government House on 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 Oct. 10. “There were some issues with connectivity, but they were able to stay in school and work,” said Mapp, adding that more work is needed to get all students across the territory back to school.
Mapp thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their technical team as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the work they have done to help bring the islands back on track.
Meanwhile, the governor announced that effective Oct. 11, the curfew hours were 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.
Oct. 12 was the last day that emergency food and water was given out at the FEMA Points of Distribution. 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 Oct. 30, 2017. The deadline for claims related to Hurricane Maria is Nov. 7, 2017.
Mapp commended Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty, members of the Department of Tourism, the Virgin Islands Port Authority and the West Indian Company 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 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; Executive Director of WAPA Julio Rhymer; 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.
“Hopefully in the next number of days we will be making a formal announcement about the return of cruise traffic to the territory,” said 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 Oct. 10, 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.
Mapp thanked the employees of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) “for the very dangerous work they do.” Over the weekend, 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.