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Governor praises territory’s response to COVID-19 pandemic

Gov. Lemanu P.S. Mauga
Territory met that challenge, “and we can now begin moving forward”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lemanu P. S. Mauga says that lessons and insights of the COVID-19 global pandemic provided American Samoa with new challenges to address and overcome.

The governor’s statement is included in the 2022 COVID-19 Task Force Operation financial report, which summarized the events, operations and costs of ASG’s response and recovery from the deadly pandemic, which claimed 34 lives in the territory.

American Samoa’s first case of the community spread of COVID was recorded last February and the first COVID death was reported the following month.

In his statement, the governor said the deaths and the territory’s exposure to the COVID-19 virus “did not hamper our resolve to overcome these challenges and build up our resilience to meet this and any future man-made or natural disasters, emergencies, and pandemics.”

He points out that the steps taken to keep the virus from reaching American Samoa “was not without great sacrifice and struggle for our people.”

“The courage to close down our borders for 10 months, implement stringent pre-travel quarantine, monitoring and testing of all inbound travelers, encourage vaccinations as essential protection for all eligible population groups, reopening our borders at a controlled pace, provide post-travel quarantine and sustenance for those infected were all part of our overall response to keep the Territory safe from the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

The governor commended the Task Force and the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) Lt. Gov. Talauega E.V. Ale — who is also the task force chairman — for their professionalism and expertise.

“We have shown the world that our people, culture, and compassion brought us closer together to defend our island against this pandemic,” he noted. “The evolution of emergency response and public health administration challenged the integrity of our systems.”

The governor declared that, “American Samoa has met that challenge, and we can now begin moving forward to fully reopen our Territory for normal business.”

 “The lessons and insights of the COVID-19 global pandemic provided our Territory with new challenges to address and overcome,” he pointed out.

“We must look to build resilience by adopting stronger or new systems to maintain our disaster preparedness and preserve our natural resources, while at the same time to improve our economy, digital ecosystems, physical infrastructure, quality of life and good governance,” he said.

Lemanu went on to thank the U.S Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and all of the Federal partners that were activated to respond to American Samoa during its time of need.

He said these additional resources and assistance were as critical in the success of preparing and training local front line workers to effectively execute their duties in a time of crisis.

As the territory moves forward, the governor said: “We must invest in our American Samoa Government ( ASG) workforce to up-skill our workers to meet the needs of an evolving skill set that must adopt with new applications and technology to stay relevant and competitive.”

“Investing in our people’s education, skills, and trades will give workers the confidence to grow in competitive and emerging industries,” he said. “Improving local people power will drive the changes needed to maximize our value as a remote US Territory.”

He also said that the private sector will require support, diversifying the local economic base is a must, incorporating community and faith-based organizations, and increasing tourism are all critical areas that the government will need to include in strengthening American Samoa’s response to future global events.

“My commitment to creating a collective of resilient, healthy, and safe communities will rely heavily on ASG’s capability to concentrate on inclusivity and equity,” the governor said. “Improving outreach and communications will be prioritized to educate the citizens of our territory on government services, meet program initiatives, and facilitate coordination among villages across the islands.”