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DoH safety measures to keep children protected as schools reopen

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua
Health director reiterates DoH position of keeping borders closed

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With the continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the US — including California where case surpassed the 400,000 mark, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua said it’s the DoH position to “maintain border closure until such time that COVID-19 is no longer a threat to the people of American Samoa” prompting the department to issue safety measures as schools prepare to reopen.

Motusa, in the DoH health advisory dated July 21st, reiterated the department’s position of keeping borders closed due to spike in US cases. However, DoH points out that there is a “strong urgency to prepare all our school-aged children for the reopening of schools in the territory.”

Calling the advisory a “high priority” to all public and private schools, DoH says it “strongly recommends” safety measures to keep children protected as schools are set to reopen next month.

Among the safety measures, is students must update their immunization shots at DoH clinics. “Students will NOT be able to attend school or daycare without updated immunizations,” DoH points out.

The department strongly advises every family to get 3 reusable/washable masks per person for everyone in the household, and this includes children. “School-aged children are to wear washable cloth face covers (masks) in school when it reopens in August,” according to the advisory which also states that proper wearing of face covers should be applied over both nose and mouth.

Furthermore, schools are encouraged to continue practicing social distancing within classrooms and outside activities. This also includes during any choir practice, and within eating areas such as cafeterias.

Other safety measures include that students who are sick should stay home until they are well and not be allowed in school; students to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds; and no hugging, shaking hands, or kissing on the cheek when greeting each other.

Schools are urged to improve air filtration and ventilation by opening windows, using fans, and removing extra clutter in classrooms to minimize the potential for airborne transmission of the virus.

Additionally, schools with air conditioning systems should use effective filters and ensure the system is using the maximum amount of outdoor air rather than just recirculating indoor air. Portable air purifiers in classrooms would also be beneficial.

“Special attention and care should be considered for all children with special needs in classrooms,” DoH advised schools. “Staff and faculty should continually heighten hygiene practices throughout the day when handling students with special needs.”

For parents, DoH advised them to allow children to engage in outdoor physical activity for an hour each day.  Furthermore, boost your children’s immune system by eating local nutritious foods and getting enough rest.

See yesterday’s Samoa News edition on steps taken by the local Education Department to address COVID-19 when public schools open for the new school year on the last week of August. Some private schools will open before public schools.

Meanwhile suspension of flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago has been continued through Aug. 31st following a request to Hawaiian Airlines from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who pointed to the uptick in the number of cases in the US, especially Hawaii.

While many American Samoa residents stranded in the US have criticized the governor’s action, many lawmakers and others in the territory have applauded the governor’s decision, especially when there is no cure or vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

As of 12noon, July 22, Hawaii health authorities reported 17 new cases brining the state’s total to 1,435 and the death total increased to 25, according to Hawaii Health Department website.

John Hopkins University, which keeps a running daily tally of the virus, reports that as of Wednesday, the highest number of confirmed cases in the US is in California with 409,000 — surpassing New York. The U.S. as a whole passed the 4 million mark.