ST. THOMASÃ¢â‚¬â€The Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Aging, chaired by Sen. Myron Jackson met on Monday to receive testimony on government and private owned nursing home facilities in the territory impacted by COVID-19 and consider several measures.
Commissioner Justa Encarnacion of the Dept. of Health and Incident Commander for the Pandemic Emergency Command Council noted that COVID mitigation efforts are challenged by several factors that include: high poverty rate; high percentage of our population over 65; status of our hospitals and our incomplete recovery from the two Category-5 hurricanes in late 2017; limited healthcare capacity; workforce shortages; and geography.
The Operational Planning Guide for Long-term Care Facilities was designed to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 in long-term care facilities in the USVI prior to the availability of a vaccine or treatment. It also strives to prevent the transmission of disease in facilities, reduce transmission following COVID-19 detection, act as a guide for facility testing practices. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The DOH has and will continue to provide support in the form of staffing, education, and training on infection control practices,Ã¢â‚¬Â concluded Encarnacion.
As soon as a positive case is confirmed, additional training is conducted per infection control practices and re-testing every 3-6 days until there are no new positives found within a 14-day period. Epidemiology, lab, and supporting divisions within the DOH have been successful in testing, diagnosis and implementing mitigating efforts to ensure patients are kept safe in non-congregate and congregate living facilities.
Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez of the Dept. of Human Services spoke on the impact of the Coronavirus within the two-government operated assisted living facilities in the territory. Two very prominent features of the COVID-19 policy were the strict Ã¢â‚¬Å“No In-Person VisitationÃ¢â‚¬Â and daily temperature screenings of all staff and residents. Under the Division of Senior Citizen Affairs, all eligible seniors over the age of 60 and adults with disabilities ages 18-59 years old are afforded services and care through twelve essential programs.
The Homes for the Aged, Herbert Grigg located on St. Croix and Queen Louise located on St. Thomas, are both 24-hour residential facilities providing nursing care and support services to eligible individuals 60 years and older. The bed capacity has been greatly reduced from 40 to 25 beds for Herbert Grigg and from 29 to 17 bed for Queen Louise. Ã¢â‚¬Å“With the Ã¢â‚¬Å“No In-Person VisitationÃ¢â‚¬Â policy, family members and other supportive individuals and groups (i.e. religious and community agencies) have the option to communicate with residents via telephone or Skype,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Causey-Gomez.
On July 15, 2020, DOH confirmed that a Herbert Grigg Home employee tested positive for COVID-19 on the previous day. Unfortunately, on August 12, 2020 DOH confirmed test results revealed several Queen Louise Home asymptomatic staff and residents were positive with COVID. Of seventeen (17) residents tested, ten (10) returned positive results, and of twenty-five (25) Queen Louise Home staff tested, six (6) tested positive. On August 25, 2020, one (1) staff at Lucinda Millin Home tested with a confirmed positive result. All staff and residents tested were confirmed negative for Covid-19 and their status remained the same following tests done on September 4, 2020.
The following measures were approved and sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration:
-Bill No. 33-0367:Ã‚Â Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 27f, to change the composition of the Commission on Aging and its duties and for other related purposes. Sponsored by Senator Myron D. Jackson
-Bill No. 33-0364:Ã‚Â Act amending title 1, Virgin Islands Code, chapter 7, by inserting section 111 relating to the recognition of indigenous Indian tribes as official Indian tribes of the Virgin Islands, and title 3, Virgin Islands Code, chapter 14 by inserting section 234 creating the Virgin Islands Indigenous Indian Tribe Identification Card. Sponsored by Senator Myron D. Jackson
-Bill No. 33-0369: An Act authorizing the removal of the copper bust of King Christian IX from the Emancipation Garden and replacing it with the statue of Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Conch Shell BlowerÃ¢â‚¬Â statue and appropriating $20,000 from the St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund for the removal and replacement of the bust. Sponsored by Senator Myron D. Jackson
-Bill No. 33-0150: An Act posthumously honoring and commending Manassah Francis for his significant entrepreneurship and service to the people of the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Senator Marvin A. Blyden and Senator Donna Frett-Gregory
-Bill No. 33-0233: A Resolution honoring and commending Mr. Randolph Ã¢â‚¬Å“JuniorÃ¢â‚¬Â DonovanÃ‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â and Mr. Kashief Ã¢â‚¬Å“DJ General KuntryÃ¢â‚¬Â Hamilton for their heroism in saving the life of a cruise passenger at the West Indian Company Dock. Sponsored by Senator Athneil Ã¢â‚¬Å“BobbyÃ¢â‚¬Â Thomas.
Other testifiers present during the meeting:
Dr. Esther Ellis, Territorial Epidemiologist
Dyma B. Williams, Interim CEO of the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center
Sean Krigger, Director of the State Historic Preservation Office
Troy DeChabert-Schuster, AARP State Director of the Virgin Islands
Activist Michael Vante
- Leba Ola-Niyi, Program Coordinator of the Pan African Support Group
Felipe Ayala, Chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission
Glenn Davis, Educator and Culture Bearer
Maekiaphan Phillips, President of OpiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢a Taino
Robert Mukaro Borrero, Taino Cacique, Consultant & Cultural Advisor
Anthony Ottley, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the West Indian Company, Ltd.
Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of the Department of Tourism
Kashief Dave Hamilton, St. Thomas Resident
Randolph Donovan, Jr., St. Thomas Resident
Members present during the meeting: Chairman Myron Jackson, Vice-Chair Javan James, Sr., Senators Alicia Barnes, Oakland Benta, Dwayne DeGraff, Steven Payne, Sr., Athneil Ã¢â‚¬Å“BobbyÃ¢â‚¬Â Thomas and non-committee member Sen. Marvin Blyden.