Tourists are back, and the coming high season promises a big economic boost if the Virgin Islands can manage to stay safe and emerge from the pandemic without another major Covid-19 outbreak.
But that is a big if. In recent days, it has been great to see the territory start to come alive once more. Many yacht charter companies and hotels are booked for the coming months, cruise ships are arriving regularly, and visitors are once again a common sight at beaches and other attractions.
As a result, restaurants and other tourism-dependent businesses are hopping, and many long-unemployed residents are finally getting back on the job.
But we fear that the excitement is causing many residents to let down their guard. Unmasked crowds — at times with hundreds of people — have started to gather again at bars, restaurants and other events.
Such carelessness is a big mistake.
The VI has been lucky following the deadly Covid outbreak in July and August that took 37 lives. Case numbers have dropped sharply, with only 21 at the most recent report on Monday.
Moreover, vaccination rates have slowly increased, and about 60 percent of the population has now received both jabs.
But this rate alone is not sufficient to ward off another deadly outbreak, especially given the tens of thousands of visitors who will be arriving in the coming months.
We suspect that most tourists will be fully vaccinated — those who aren’t probably will go somewhere without the relatively strict requirements that the government is rightly imposing here — but some infected visitors will doubtlessly slip through the cracks. Covid-19 probably remains in the community as well.
So instead of forgetting about the required protections as tourism returns, the community should be doubling down on compliance.
No one can relax until the experts say the coast is clear, and they have said nothing of the kind. In fact, they have issued stark warnings. Everyone must listen.
The territory simply cannot afford another major outbreak, which could mean not only more deaths among the 40 percent of the population who remain unvaccinated but another border shutdown that would bring one more wave of economic devastation.
Extreme caution, then, is in order. The stakes are too high for any other approach.