Governor’s extension of emergency declaration remains in “Code Blue”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has extended for 31-days his coronavirus emergency declaration, through the Ninth Amended Declaration, effective Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, as American Samoa — without a confirmed case — continues under the “Code Blue” threat-level.
The amended document, dated Oct. 1st, and released early yesterday morning by the Governor’s Office, noted that as of Sept. 29th both LBJ Medical Center and Health Department have conducted COVID-19 testing for 1,616 individuals and all came back negative.
It also says that it is the government’s commitment to continue to conduct more testing of the local population with priorities given to the first responders and the most vulnerable of the local residents.
According to the amended declaration, territorial leaders “are keenly sensitive, sympathetic and grateful for the sacrifices being made by all American Samoa’s residents stranded in the United States and elsewhere in the world attributed to local efforts to stop the coronavirus from entering our shores causing a human catastrophe.”
Furthermore, “travel restriction is being imposed as an effective tool to prevent the entry of the COVID-19 virus into our islands along with the institution of social-distancing and wearing masks.”
It points to the number of confirmed cases and deaths globally - including the U.S and its territories - as of Sept. 29th, which is when Hawaii registered 131 fatalities and 12,351 confirmed cases. Given that Hawai’i is the “only gateway to American Samoa, our vulnerability is amplified,” the amended declaration points out
(Hawaii Health Department online data — as of 12 noon Sept. 30th — shows that the number of confirmed cases increased to a total of 12,410 and 136 deaths.)
. “Sufficient data is now available which validates the fact that Pacific Islanders face greater susceptibility and vulnerability to being infected by the coronavirus and high rate and incidence of death,” it says.
There are no new restrictions under the 9th amended declaration, but it emphasized the importance of full compliance with ongoing requirements. Summary below of some important ongoing restrictions.
• All Hawaiian Airlines flights remain suspended with reconsideration slated for Nov. 1st. However, the governor yesterday sent a new request to Hawaiian Airlines to continue suspension of flights through the end of November. Hawaiian has concurred. (This provision of Hawaiian is expected to be amended soon.)
The governor requested last month, and the airline concurred with suspension of flights through the end of this month.
• Inter-Samoa flights remain suspended and will be continually reviewed, depending on the COVID-19 status in both countries. If emergency needs arise which will require special flights to American Samoa, this option will be considered by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
• Exemptions remain in place for military flights, including the US Coast Guard, as well as medivac flights, with specific requirements which must be met. For example, the crew staying overnight is required — under current regulations — to get a COVID-19 negative test 72-hours prior to arrival.
COVID-19 RELATED WORKERS
For COVID-19 related workers, quarantine WILL be imposed. However, a mitigation plan will be developed in order for them to carry out their duties. This activity will be monitored by the Department of Health for 14-days.
For COVID-19 related workers — including FEMA — they will still be quarantined but with a mitigation plan in order for them to conduct their work. An example of such a plan includes, providing office space with internet connection at the quarantine site, with no contact with the community; and a rental car for them to drive around with a DoH escort in a separate vehicle — for site visits.
It also says that all travelers into the territory must provide negative COVID-19 test results within 72 hours before arrival and the traveler is required to disclose if he/ she had a positive test result prior to testing negative.
No changes are made to regulations for all public gatherings, including religious worship — restrictions remain in place: open from 5 a.m to 9 p.m. And bingo games for fund raising purposes will continue to remain suspended. The public is advised that failure to obey this restriction will be prosecuted as a Class A Misdemeanor.
The public is requested and encouraged to continue to practice social distancing including use of masks when engaging in these public activities.
There are no changes to restrictions placed on hours of operations for businesses: open from 5a.m to 9p.m, with social distancing encouraged. Businesses are reminded that under a declared state of emergency “price gouging is prohibited.”
All public transportation services will also continue to operate from 5a.m to 9p.m daily except for buses under contract with StarKist, which are exempted from hours of operation restrictions.
• Visitations to the Territorial Correctional Facility remain closed but subject to protocols established and enforced by the Commissioner of Public Safety.
• Juvenile Detention Center visitation is still allowed between those housed there and their parents and/or legal guardians. Social distancing shall be exercised and monitored by the facility’s administrators.
The governor has again called for the public’s cooperation and compliance with each restriction put in place for the protection of public health. Furthermore, DoH and Public Safety is tasked with coordinating enforcement to ensure the utmost compliance.
(Complete 9th Amended Declaration can be downloaded at bottom of this page.)
TAGATA TUTU FATASI ALLIANCE OF AMERICAN SAMOA
Congresswoman Aumua Amata has responded to Tagata Tutu Fatasi Alliance of American Samoa’s Sept. 23, 2020 letter requesting her help to alleviate the financial needs of the residents of American Samoa stranded off-island due to the governor’s coronavirus emergency declaration that also closes the territory’s borders.
The Alliance pointed to $80 million “from the Medicaid funds that ASG might not be able to get a matching fund, that may have to be returned to the Federal Government. We are therefore, requesting to re-appropriate $3- $5 million of those funds to assist with the plight of the stranded residents. This will cover the cost of basic needs along with temporary living arrangements. The overwhelming burden our people face of being separated from their families, in addition to battling some form of mental illness becomes severe with time.”
In her Sept. 30, 2020 letter, the Congresswoman thanked the Alliance for their letter and acknowledged that “each member of your group has been affected either physically, financially or emotionally.” due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The disruptions to you and your families’ lives has been difficult and I am praying for everyone’s safe return to their destination.”
Amata pointed out that while she has “helped secure substantial CARES Act recovery funds for American Samoa from Congress, increased the ASG operations annual budget and expanded our Medicaid coverage,” she has no control over dispersal of those federal funds — that is the purview of the Governor “upon receipt”.
She further noted that “control over our border and immigration rests in the control of our Governor and our legislature and the timing of flights will be upon the Governor’s determination of the safety of all parties.”
About the soldier the Alliance wrote that Amata had helped to get on a flight to the territory, but was stopped at the borders by DoH, the Congresswoman doesn’t mention the case specifically but says she cannot “share the information of one constituent with another person,” without a privacy release form signed and properly executed. She notes that “each individual case is important and unique and with their own set of specific circumstances and facts” and emphasizes, “the Governor however will determine when it is safe to repatriate.”
Amata informed the Alliance that she recently testified before the U.S. Senate and “have updated them on the current state of affairs,” and “asked them to increase our current budget due to COVID crisis.” She says there is already an increase of $500,000 to the ASG operations budget and the territory has received over $100 million in additional emergency funds this year. AGAIN, she reiterates — “the Governor has control of these funds as well as any increase to reprogram any funds.”
The congresswoman concludes that she will keep working with the Governor, “our Fono leadership, and all of you and keep you informed as to the progress and pray for everyone’s swift and safe return to their homes and families.”