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Families experience fear and sadness as COVID continues to spread

Customs agent inspecting a package of person picking up at post office
Isolation from family takes a toll — not just logistically, but emotionally

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While spouses and children of essential workers worry about their loved ones who are at their workplaces during the pandemic, many families and individuals are experiencing dramatic changes in their lives as American Samoa heads into its third week of community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Some living alone are suffering tremendous isolation and fear, with no one there to comfort them. Others are housed with infected family members who are having to isolate — from their own families.

“It’s really dehumanizing, because there’s typically a natural inclination to want to support other people in your family. You might want to hold their hand or just be there, for them physically, but you can’t,” said a senior health worker who is serving the people everyday.

She mentioned how hard it was to stay away after her daughter tested positive.

“I had to fight that urge to just hold and hug her,” she says. “And since this all happened — it feels sad to not have her with us.”

A man from Leone said quarantining yourself from family members can be very hard — not just logistically, but emotionally.

“People I see are breaking down crying over this, it’s so hard to be apart from the people who you love. We have to find ways to stay connected. Otherwise, it can be a slippery slope toward depression,” he said.

A family from Tafuna shared their story and experience from the pandemic.

“We all need to think about how we would manage the logistics, isolation and fear if someone in our household got COVID-19,” a mother of three young children and the wife of a health worker said.

This young family had been sheltering at home and doing what they could to avoid contracting COVID-19. Yet, just last week, her husband tested positive for the Coronavirus. The family was fully vaccinated.

“It felt surreal,” the mother said during a telephone interview with Samoa News last week.

“We’d been so careful all along. Reading the headline, we knew that it was somewhere out there, but to realize that there was COVID-19 in the house was scary.”

The mother and the three children have all tested negative. The mother is still living in the house with her husband — who is in Home Isolation inside one of the rooms in their family house while the children are now staying with her parents in Fagatogo.

“My husband told me to go with the children to my parent’s house but I told him I have to stay to take good care of him and to make sure he gets all the things he needs while he’s in Home Isolation,” the wife said.

Another young couple with one child shared the same feelings after the man tested positive last week. The husband is in Home Isolation for 14 days.

The mother of a Customs employee who is out in the public everyday serving the people is concerned for the safety of her son.

She worries that her son might get infected while dealing with members of the public everyday — people who could unknowingly be infected with the virus.

“Our country is not safe anymore and we have to practice living with the virus everyday,” the 55-year-old woman said. “I’m praying for the safety of my son, his staff and the whole of American Samoa.”

After seeing what is happening around the island with the fast spread of the Coronavirus, one man made the decision to self-isolate, moving into a tent in the garage to avoid the possibility of infecting his family, especially his elderly parents and two young children.

 The man — Livi — who is a long time health care worker told Samoa News that along with his wife and family, two weeks ago they made the group decision that he should isolate from the rest of the family because “we didn’t want to take that chance.”

Livi’s message to the whole community is very clear, “The least you can do is stay home so that we, too, can go home to our loved ones one day.”

Another family in the Ottoville area is facing the same situation. The husband is an essential worker so the wife, their four children, along with her 69-year-old mother are moving out of the house and staying with another family member at another location, leaving her husband at their home, alone.

She told Samoa News she made the decision to move out and leave her husband at their house because her husband is doing service for the community and she wants to make sure her family will not face the consequences from this pandemic.

“It’s hard because I want to provide my husband with everything he needs right now. It’s a critical time in our country right now and I have to make the right decision to protect my family from the virus,” the concerned woman who did not want to reveal her name said.

A father of five children from the west side of the island shared his story on how he looks at his family during this fearful time of the pandemic. He, his wife and their five children are living in a four bedroom house with his sister, who is a nurse, while he is employed in law enforcement.

He said ever since the news about the community spread of the coronavirus erupted last month, the normal life inside his household immediately changed.

He just ended a two-week long quarantine last week, during which he was unable to interact with his family because he had exposure to a person testing positive for COVID-19.

He wore a mask at all times, changed his clothes before he left his workplace, bleached his shoes and left them in the garage, and went immediately to the bathroom to shower and change into fresh clothes.

He slept in a different bedroom, and would sit in a separate room to eat his meals.

“It was hard and kind of surreal to be in my own house but feel like I was this guest who was far away from everyone. We’re a very affectionate household and it felt so lonely to see them all from a distance and feel like I was potentially putting them at risk,” he said.

A woman posted on social media about the sad news she received last week when she got home that her husband had tested positive for coronavirus.

“Do I blame him for getting this s*** positive? No, because he works for ASPA and the damn thing got to him. I don’t know probably through another co-worker but hold up, I’m not gonna point fingers but I will make sure my family is safe.” she wrote on her Facebook page.

She said she hated seeing her husband being isolated away from her and their children.

“My family comes first but most importantly all we gotta do is put God first in everything,” she said.