U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The VI Department of Health is dispelling rumors that a New Health Advisory has been issued recommending social distancing and wearing of masks to protect against the variant XBB.

On Monday, department officials received reports of a factitious advisory circulating on social media platforms that a New COVID Health Advisory has been issued for the variant XBB and that mask-wearing would once again be implemented. According to the social media post, XBB was found be more deadly than previous strains and undetectable. It advises readers to wear a double layer of masks and to social distance.

“The information circulating on social media is false,” VI Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said. “The Department of Health has not issued an advisory directing the public to wear a double layer of mask or to social distance. Wearing a mask is no longer mandated by the Department of Health. However, wearing a mask is a personal choice and we do encourage wearing a mask if you are sick to protect others around you.”

According to Dr. Esther Ellis, Territorial Epidemiologist for the VI Department of Health. “The current variant is EG.5. It is not showing to be more dangerous than previous COVID variants. Also, XBB, although more contagious, did not make people sicker and did not result in increased hospitalizations.”

The VI Department of Health reminds the public that the best protection against COVID is becoming vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine is available to everyone aged 6 years and older.

Vaccines are available:

On St. Croix from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, at the Department of Health clinic located on the second floor of #35 Castle Coakley Unit 5, known as the Old Caribe Home Center Building. No appointments necessary. 

On St. Thomas, for adults, vaccinations are available from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday to Thursday, at the Community Health Clinic located at the Schneider Regional Medical Center. For the FLU vaccine call (340) 774-7477 to make an appointment. For children, vaccinations are available at the Maternal Child Health Clinic. Call 340-777-8804 ext. 2600 to make an appointment.

Free drive-thru COVID testing is also available through the Department of Health:

  • On St. Croix, the drive-thru testing site, located adjacent to VIDOH’s red modulars in Estate Richmond, will open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
  • On St. Thomas, the drive-thru, located at the Schneider Regional Medical Center loading dock, will open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
  • On St. John, testing is scheduled for Wednesdays at the VIPA Gravel Lot from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Schedule an appointment for testing online at https://www.covid19.usvi.care/ or call the VIDOH Hotline: (340) 712-6299 for St. Croix and 340-776-1519 for St. Thomas-St. John. 

The VIDOH Hotline operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, the department encourages you to get tested.