US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

May 15

Mask wearing ‘crucial’ to preventing COVID-19 spread

Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis implored Virgin Islanders to properly wear face masks — regardless of how uncomfortable they might be.

“It is crucial that you always wear one in public spaces when you’re around people you do not live with,” Ellis said during Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s press conference Thursday.



Alternate care facility an VING building just temporary

While a V.I. National Guard training and barracks building on St. Croix is now a 24-bed acute care facility for COVID-19 patients, the change is only temporary.

The “alternate care facility,” which is located on the first floor of the 210th Regional Training Institute in Estate Bethlehem, is expected to “decommission” and revert back to its former design as soon as the pandemic subsides.

That means the roughly $2 million spent by the territory to retrofit the barracks will hold little if any long-term value.



Bureau of Corrections to take over food services from vendor

The Bureau of Corrections says it expects to save millions of taxpayer dollars by moving food service in-house after a contract dispute with vendor Trinity Services Inc.

“We found that by handling food service ourselves, rather than paying an outside vendor, we could save a lot of money and at the same time improve the quality of food offered to our inmates,” BOC Director Wynnie Testamark said in a statement issued by public information officer Winthrop Maduro. “By moving food service in-house, the BOC expects to save millions of dollars over the next few years.”



ZoZo’s H2O parts ways with Lovango Resort & Beach Club (article attached)

ZoZo’s H2O, the re-boot of the long-running St. John restaurant that enjoyed success at Gallows Point Resort then at Caneel Bay Resort, has closed.

Owned and operated by John Ferrigno, the upscale Italian venue opened at the Lovango Resort and Beach Club in February, welcoming guests who arrived by private charter boat or a ferry shuttle associated with the island.



Carnival announces Florida layoffs and furloughs (wire article attached)

Catrnival Corp. announced Thursday a series of layoffs and furloughs that will affect 1,300 workers ai its Florida offices.



Norwegian: 2021 bookings on track (wire article attached)

Norwegian Cruise Lines Ltd. Reported first quarter earnings Thursday that missed analysts’ expectations. But the Miami-based company says it is already seeing demand for voyages in the fourth quarter of 2020 and into 2021.



Maria Ferreras: A question of education (article attached)



First Wave of Stimulus Checks Out; Planning Begins for Hurricane Season

Good news for residents awaiting economic stimulus checks or credits: The first wave of approximately $10 million in checks will be mailed by Friday and credits on electricity bills have started to come through, according to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.

Bryan said at a press briefing Thursday that ratepayers who haven’t seen their credits applied through the V.I. Water and Power Authority by June should check to see if there is an issue. Meanwhile, he assured residents worried about not getting their economic stimulus funds that more than $80 million is in the government’s coffers for payout. There’s no other way for the government to spend it and what isn’t used would have to be sent back, Bryan said.



Many Familiar Faces Among 2020 Candidates

There are numerous incumbents and former office holders on the list of Virgin Islanders who have filed nomination papers to run for office in the 2020 primary and general election. Here they are. Incumbents and former office holders are marked in bold.



Southland Gaming Donates Screening Thermometers to USVI

Hospitals, clinics and government entities in the Virgin Islands received a donation of 70 noncontact infrared thermometers from Southland Gaming. The thermometers, which read temperatures from the forehead, are being used for screening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The thermometers were donated to each of the territory’s hospitals, various clinics, nonprofits, V.I. Police Department, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital in the British Virgin Islands.



The New Normal: Caribbean Surf Co. Reopened Two Locations Last Week

Jose Belcher, owner of Caribbean Surf Co., said he was “really stoked” after Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announced that non-essential businesses could reopen. He said he was “anticipating that was going to be the announcement, so we were working in our stores for the whole week prior to get ready to reopen.”

Belcher said he and his staff appreciate the governor’s efforts to guide the U.S. Virgin Islands through the pandemic.



UVI Class of 2020 Overcomes Overwhelming Odds, Confers Over 300 Degrees

On May 12, the University of the Virgin Islands Office of the Registrar certified over 300 degrees for the Class of 2020. As a result of the coronavirus, commencement ceremonies originally slated for May have been postponed. UVI’s Class of 2020 will walk across the stage and celebrate their commencement in December 2020. Currently, students who have earned their degrees will receive their diplomas in the mail.



‘Stop the Divisiveness’, ‘Act Like Adults’ Bryan Says When Asked Why Most Stimulus Checks in First Batch Went to St. Thomas

Governor Albert Bryan during his Thursday coronavirus press briefing said questions on why over 2,200 of 2,995 of the first batch of coronavirus stimulus checks went to St. Thomas, while the remaining were split between St. Croix and St. John, was dividing the territory and that such stories “drive a wedge” between Virgin Islanders.

During a Wednesday Committee of the Whole hearing, V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue Director, Joel Lee, and Dept. of Finance Commissioner, Kirk Callwood, both told lawmakers that most of the checks in the first batch went to St. Thomas. They were responding to a question from Senator Kurt Vialet, who called for parity moving forward for check distribution.



V.I. Government, APTIM, AECOM, TSG and Others to Face Congressional Investigation Into Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Yet to be Paid to Subcontractors for Post-Hurricane Work

Imagine a construction company based on the U.S. mainland being called upon to provide emergency repair work on homes in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which had been devastated by two Category 5 hurricanes in 2017. The government of the Virgin Islands had assured that payments for work performed would be forthcoming, and going based on that promise, the company summoned its workforce and moved them to the U.S. territory — paying the upfront costs, including salaries, stipends, and lodging — with the confidence that the V.I. government would honor its covenants.

However, over a year after work was completed, this company, which expended millions of dollars upfront to perform work, is going bankrupt because full payment from the G.V.I. had yet to be satisfied.



RTPark Announces Second Cohort of Accelerate VI

The Research and Technology Park (RTPark) said Thursday it has selected eight startups to participate in Cohort 2 of its business accelerator and demo day. The program, originally slated to take place at RTPark’s new co-working space in downtown Christiansted has been converted to a virtual curriculum designed to offer mentorship, guidance, advisory support, access to capital and an assortment of startup perks for the budding enterprises, the RTPark said.



FEMA Approves More Than $10 Million for Design of New Juan F. Luis Hospital; Remaining Funds go Toward Repairs at Other Medical Facilities

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Public Assistance Program has approved $11,979,526 to procure architecture and engineering services for medical facilities in the territory — more than $10 million of which will be utilized for the new Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center.



UVI Class of 2020 Overcomes Overwhelming Odds With Over 300 Degrees Conferred

On May 12, the University of the Virgin Islands Office of the Registrar certified over 300 degrees for the Class of 2020, the institution of higher learning announced late Thursday. As a result of the Coronavirus, commencement ceremonies originally slated for May 2020 have been postponed. UVI’s Class of 2020 will walk across the stage and celebrate their Commencement in December 2020.  Currently, students who have earned their degrees will receive their diplomas in the mail.