UPDATE: Gov extends coronavirus emergency for another 30 days
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has extended for another 30-days the coronavirus state of emergency through a Fifth Amended Declaration effective June 1st as American Samoa remains under the Code-Blue health threat level.
The extended declaration, which lifts some local restrictions such as operation hours for businesses, was released Sunday night by the Governor’s Office. As of Sunday, American Samoa remains without a confirmed COVID-19 case.
According to the extended declaration, which expires July 1st, all public gatherings, including religious worship services of no more than 150 people will be permitted. However, the public is requested and encouraged to continue to practice social distancing including the use of masks when engaging in these public activities.
The public is advised that failure to obey this restriction will be prosecuted as a Class A Misdemeanor under local law and the Department of Public Safety is charged with full enforcement of all the restrictive provisions of the declaration.
At Sunday’s ASG coronavirus task force meeting, the governor explained that allowing up to 150 people for public gatherings, are for “essential gatherings” such as church services, funerals and others gatherings such as cultural events.
He said there are also public gatherings not considered essential — such as bingo games, which are prohibited under this restriction.
A question was raised with the governor on whether public parks will be opened under the amended declaration, because it’s not specified in the document. Lolo said public parks are now open but the number of people gathering should not be more than 150.
Under this amended declaration, operation hours for businesses have been extended from the previous 6a.m to 6p.m. to 5a.m. to 9p.m.
Businesses are also encouraged to practice social distancing within their respective place of business at no more than 50% capacity. However, “StarKist and its direct documented business affiliates, water production and oxygen gas production are exempted under Code Blue,” it says.
Businesses are encouraged to keep their facilities sanitized and further advisories will be issued from the governor that may adjust restrictions on businesses as necessary, according to the extended declaration, which reiterates that price gouging is prohibited during a declared state of emergency.
For public transportation, operating hours will also be from 5a.m. to 9.m. daily, except for businesses under contract with StarKist who provide transportation for cannery employees. All StarKist employees riding on the contracted busses will wear masks.
During hours of operation, buses and taxis must institute social distancing practices. Furthermore each bus and taxi must only operate at half seating capacity.
The extended declaration reaffirms that all Hawaiian Airlines flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago are suspended for an additional 30-days with reconsideration to resume flights slated for July 1st.
Furthermore all inter Samoa flights on Samoa Airways and Talofa Airways are also suspended and this restriction will continually be reviewed depending on the COVID-19 status in Samoa and American Samoa.
It also states that medivac flights for the sole purpose of picking up critically ill patients approved by the LBJ Off Island Medical Referral Committee will be allowed; however, with full adherence to getting tested 72-hours testing for the pilot and crew before arrival will be allowed to land.
Additionally, US Coast Guard and other military flights will be allowed to land however an overnight stay will trigger adherence to testing and quarantine protocols with the Health Department’s close monitoring.
Furthermore, private flights into the territory with the sole purpose of dropping off equipment and supplies will be allowed to land with no one disembarking from the plane or to overnight.
It also states that all off-island medical referrals to New Zealand and the United States are suspended. However, the option will be considered only for medical emergencies and will be at the discretion of LBJ Off Island Medical Referral Committee.
For ASG departments, the extended declaration states that departments are to schedule full four-day workweek, not to exceed 32 hours each week for employees who are 60 years of age and up. For the remaining workday in each week, these employees will be placed on furlough status.
It also states that ASG departments are to stagger staffing coverage deploying 50%-50% staffing format for employees under 59 years of age to achieve a minimum of 20 hours worked in each week. And these employees will not be subject to a furlough status designation.
The extended declaration notes that social distancing methods are to be practiced in conducting government business by using such telecommunications tools as video conferencing, phone calls and emails.
It is strongly recommended that all employees serving the public are to wear masks and the department or agency is to provide masks for the designated employees.
At the task force meeting on Sunday, the governor pointed out that ASG semi-autonomous agencies work out their best schedule solution to meet their needs and service to the public.
According to the extended declaration, all public and private schools, as well as day care centers, and the American Samoa Community College will continue to be closed for the remainder of this school year and during the additional 30-days of this amended declaration.
Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga inquiried if ASDOE can hold sports programs — keeping the number of people at fewer than 150, to which the governor said such large sporting programs are not allowed under the extended declaration.
According to the extended declaration, each restriction put into place is for the protection of public health. “Cooperation and compliance are necessary to prevent and slow down this disease,” it says, adding that DOH and DPS will be tasked with coordinating enforcement to “ensure utmost compliance.”