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All local and federal COVID public health emergencies to end May 11

Xavier Becerra
Lemanu thanks federal partners for their support

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The U.S. Presidential COVID-19 Emergency Declaration for American Samoa “will close effective” May 11, 2023 — which is the same date that the nationwide declaration — issued in March 2020 — as well as individual pandemic declarations for all states and territories, will also end.

This is according to a Feb. 10, national notice by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and it comes at the same time that the U.S. Health and Human Services Department informed the nations’ governors that the COVID Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends on May 11.

The FEMA notice states that the incident period for all COVID-19 major disaster declarations and the nationwide emergency declaration will close effective May 11.

Furthermore, eligibility of work and costs reimbursable through Public Assistance funding will end on this date. The notice lists not only the nationwide emergency declaration, but the ones that were issue for individuals states and territories, including American Samoa.

Also last Friday, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra released a copy of his letter to governors of states and territories, announcing the renewal of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) — as declared under federal law, but effective this past Saturday.

“Based on current trends regarding COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is planning for this to be the final renewal and for the COVID-19 PHE to end on May 11, 2023,” Becerra wrote.

“Rather than 60 days’ notice, I am providing 90 days’ notice before the COVID-19 PHE ends to give you and your communities ample time to transition,” he informed governors and noted that, addressing COVID-19 remains a significant public health priority for the Biden Administration.

And “over the next few months, we will transition our COVID-19 policies, as well as the current flexibilities enabled by the COVID-19 emergency declarations, into improving standards of care for patients,” said Becerra.

“We will work closely with partners including state, local, Tribal, and territorial agencies, industry, and advocates, to ensure an orderly transition,” he said and provided a fact sheet that “includes information on what will and will not be impacted by the end of the COVID-19 PHE.”

In the coming days, Becerra said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will also provide additional information, including about the waivers many states and health systems have adopted and how they will be impacted by the end of the COVID-19 PHE.

There has been no update information from the Lemanu Administration regarding the effective close-date of the federal COVID-19 emergency declaration, or reaction to Becerra’s letter (details of the letter on USDHHS website:

The local COVID-19 emergency declarations all ended as of Dec. 01, 2022, as the number of positive cases from the community spread of the deadly virus declined since the first case was first reported in late February of last year.

Gov. Lemanu P. S. Mauga in his written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources discussing the state of the U.S territories provided an update on local efforts responding to the pandemic, saying that American Samoa survived COVID after more than two years of adopting and exercising some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the world.

He informed the committee of local borders closed in March 2020 and in 2021 his administration began under a very entry strict process the repatriation into the territory of residents stranded off island.

However, the first community outbreak was recorded in February last year, and by this time, American Samoa had a near 90% full vaccination rate for eligible individuals “thanks to the vaccines we received from the federal government,” he said.

“We lost 34 people whose deaths could be attributed to COVID,” he said. “It was at this moment that truly showed the tremendous role the... federal government played in our territory’s ability to respond to a global pandemic.”

He said multiple federal agencies, from FEMA, to CDC, to the US Army and others were “instrumental in supporting us, sustaining us and helping us recover.”

“While I have this honor to testify before this Committee, I feel it only proper that on behalf of our people and our government, I would like to personally express my heartfelt gratitude to this U.S. Congress,” the governor said.

“Federal laws you pass that have supported COVID vaccinations, our small businesses, our employees, our health care system, had a real impact on the lives of our people,” he continued.

“We owe so much to all of our federal partners who had feet on the ground during this outbreak, before and after. Thank you,” the governor added.