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Looking ahead at coronavirus pandemic, “What’s the next step?”

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Lolo enumerates 8 issues to address

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With the current 30-day COVID-19 emergency declaration set to expire Apr. 17th, and American Samoa with no confirmed cases, although the territory doesn’t have the ability yet to test for the virus, the questions now is — “What’s the next step?”

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga posed this question to the ASG COVID-19 Task Force and the Coronavirus Working Group asking for them to provide recommendations on “what our next steps would be when the current declaration lapses on Apr. 17th.”

“The options will be predicated on the status of the United States coronavirus curve, but we will try to make logical assumptions upon which derives proposed recommendations facilitating amending our declaration,” the governor wrote in an Apr. 6th letter to the task force and working group.

Specially, the governor wants the following issues addressed:

•     opening our borders

•     resumption of Hawaiian Airlines flights

•     reopening schools

•     resumption of church services

•     restarting social gatherings

•     curfew on buses and taxis

•     expanding business hours beyond 6a.m. to 6p.m restrictions

•     enforcement of social distancing

“If we have a confirmed case, the existing declaration protocols will be immediately invoked and it may necessitate the implementation of even stricter measures,” said Lolo. “It is important, therefore, that this side of the spectrum is considered in the event Code Yellow and Code Red are invoked.”

The governor requested that “this task be completed as soon as possible,” no later than Apr. 13th “to thoroughly review” the recommendations prior to Apr. 17th — (which Samoa News notes is also the 2020 Flag Day marking 120 years since American Samoa became part of the US family.)

Lolo expressed “sincere appreciation” to the task force, the working group, government leaders and others for availing time to address policies providing guidance to proposed actions directed at preventing the virus from entering and spreading in the community.

“While our nation is facing gut-wrenching pain at the loss of so many of our citizenry, God has continued to bless our Territory because we are not sitting idle and not doing our part to protect our people,” he said.

However, he fears that the “inevitable will occur but [is] comforted by the fact that we have taken every precautionary measure possible to save the lives of our people.”

According to the governor, the worst aspect of this pandemic is its lack of history, bringing so much uncertainty and negating the formulation of effective mitigation plans.

“We are facing the same challenges leaving us little choice but to do what we can to preempt entry and to contain transmission,” he said. “It also compels us to stay ahead of this virus.”

A running tally by John Hopkins University and Medicine shows that as of yesterday morning (local time) the number of confirmed cases globally has reached more than 1.5 million — with more than 317,000 them recovered. The fatality count reached 87,706 — Italy at the highest with 17,669 deaths.

For the US, total cases were at 423,135 more than 23,000 of them recovered. However, total deaths were at 14,390 — with the highest number of fatalities of 4,571 deaths in New York City, New York.