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Families struggle to cope with difficulties brought on by COVID

Tutuila COVID map

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — It’s now going on to 7 weeks since the first community case of COVID-19 was reported on Feb. 21 and some families are still trying to readjust their lifestyle and figure out how to overcome financial hardship due to the closure of work places, schools and day care centers.

A mother of 4 who has worked for the cannery for over 8 years has decided to stay home to care for her young children because schools and day care centers are still closed.

According to the mother, two of her children are in elementary school while the other two are with daycare centers and when schools and daycare centers closed down in February due to the CODE Red, that’s when she decided to stay home and care for her children.

“I decided to resign from work and stay home to look after our children and to make sure my two children who are attending elementary school are attending to their online classes.”

The family is paying rent of $350 a month and ever since the lockdown, the husband has been the only breadwinner.

“The last 7 weeks have been very challenging for my family because in the first 3 weeks, my husband and I were both out of jobs and trying our best to provide food for the children — especially our two youngest; a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old,” the mother said.

“Despite the financial hardship we’re facing everyday, spending this quality time with my children for the last 7 weeks since our government went under lockdown is a wonderful feeling.”

One the most stressful things throughout these difficult times, according to the 35-year-old mother, is trying to protect her family from COVID.

She explained that everyday when her husband comes home from work, she makes sure he leaves all his clothes and work gear outside before he enters the house and goes straight to take a shower.

“My daily priority is the safety of my young children and to make sure they have food on the table to eat. Despite these tough challenges, we are so thankful to our Heavenly Father for providing everything we need especially life and air,” the mother said.

The husband works at a local construction company and he makes about $460 every two weeks to provide for his family.

Theresa Mata’u, a mother of 3 from the village of Fagatogo is one of the many people dealing with the same problems. Mrs. Mata’u decided to stay home to look after her children because day care centers and schools are closed.

She used to work at a local restaurant in town where she made $350 every two weeks while her husband is a bus driver who makes $200 every week to feed their family.

Right now, her husband is the only person providing for their family while she now stays home looking after the children.

“We know the pandemic has affected everyone in different ways but I’m trying to find a way to get a night job to earn some money for my family because we don’t know if the government will continue to keep daycare centers and schools doors closed for the rest of this school year,” Mrs. Mata’u said.

A mother of three who works at one of the local daycare centers in town shared the same thoughts on how her young family has suffered financially for about 7 weeks now since the closure of all daycare centers and family care facilities since the beginning of last month.

Elisa Filipo of Nu’uuli explained the financial hardship her family has faced for the last 7 weeks after she was instructed to stay home due to the closure of her workplace.

“Daycare centers were closed for two weeks at the beginning of February at the request of the Dept. of Health to stop the spread of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and ever since that first week of February up until now, I have been unemployed and unable to provide for my family,” Filipo said.

An elderly couple living in Fogagogo told Samoa News that COVID-19 changed their daily lifestyle as well.

During the first 3 weeks of the government’s lockdown and CODE Red, they were forced by their daughter to stay home for 3 straight weeks.

“This is something we didn’t expect in our lives. We’re unable to go to church due to the restriction from the government, and our daughter instructed us to stay home to protect us from getting the virus if we went outside for a walk or to do our daily chores,” said the 70-year-old father.

Despite the changes, the retired teacher said that our people must realize that there are times things happen against our will and we have to cope with it.

“This deadly pandemic affects the whole world and we have to be prepared for things like this because if we don’t, our family will suffer. This is a real challenge for us in our lifetime and for us as a Christian nation, we must understand how God is leading the world and our lives too,” the 70-year-old father said.

Wayne Tolova’a, 53, of Tafuna said some people are not taking this pandemic as seriously as they should. He said when people are around their family members and friends, they tend to become careless and drop their guard. They take their masks off and they don’t social distance and our people seem to have the mentality that since they’re around family members that everything is cool.

“No it’s not. To all those anti-vaxers, I too was a anti-vaxer for a long time. However, because of the huge surge of positive cases I decided it was time to be part of the solution and get vaccinated,” said Tolova’a.

Two weeks ago, Tolova’a had his first shot. He shared that the shot does not prevent him from getting the virus, but if you do get the virus, your chances of surviving the virus are much greater, he said.

He urged people to take the pandemic seriously and comply with restrictions given by government officials because he feels that prevention is better than cure.

There are reports that people who tested positive are not staying home as instructed by health officials. And this is not new since the government announced the move from CODE Blue to CODE Red on Feb. 21 — people who tested positive are seen walking around freely in their neighborhood or even in public areas.

“My advice to our people is please stay home as much as you can. This is spreading faster than a blink of an eye. Wearing masks is a must at this time, washing hands is a must and don’t forget to take this virus seriously,” a health worker said.