Gov issues memo clarifying division of tasks for COVID-19 Task Force
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Despite written and verbal directives to cabinet members about centralizing duties and responsibilities of ASG agencies involved with carrying out the government’s response to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears there’s “still confusion or lack of clarity.”
This prompted Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to issue a new 3-page memo dated Mar. 25th to “reaffirm the division of responsibilities” of the ASG COVID-19 Task Force and support agencies “to mitigate the potential exposure of our people to the negative effects of the coronavirus.”
Lolo emphasized that there “should be seamless collaboration and cooperation among all agencies and entities involved to maximize the efficacy of our efforts to achieve our ultimate objects to save lives.”
Accordingly, the governor said, he is again clarifying the distribution and delegation of responsibilities.
For health matters, Lolo said the Dept. of Health (DoH) is solely responsible for all medically related issues particularly to monitor continuously the condition of each person placed in quarantine throughout the isolation period. DoH will determine who is to be quarantined based on its established criteria.
“The responsibility solely to release the individual from quarantine lies exclusively within its administrative purview,” he said, adding that the Health director will determine the number of quarantine facilities required and he will communicate this need to the governor’s chief of staff, Fiu J. Saelua, who will oversee all logistical and infrastructural needs.
According to the governor, logistical issues such as securing quarantine facilities, food and other support basics needs of those quarantined comes under the purview of Fiu, who is also appointed Deputy Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR). Samoa News notes that the GAR is Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga.
For the ASG Homeland Security Department, the agency will coordinate all activities with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and shall make sure that the costs associated with implemented projects will be reimbursed. Homeland Security director, Samana Semo Ve’ave’a, is State Coordinating Officer authorized to implement all cost information on funds spent on coronavirus related projects for subsequent transmittal to FEMA officials after the governor’s approval.
• all travel advisories along with full enforcement is placed under the auspices of the Attorney General, who has jurisdiction over all OK-Board activities and to “aggressively prosecutor violators” of the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration and Executive Order, issued last week relating to enforce of the declaration. (See Mar. 27th edition for details.)
• ASG Human Resources director shall collaborate with all department directors to monitor and to enforce the applicable declaration employment related dictates.
• Public Safety Department is charged with the responsibility of enforcing all provisions of the governor’s Executive Order, “to include incarceration of those individuals who defy” the terms of the declaration.
• questions pertaining to provisions of the declaration or policy interpretation, if there is uncertainty, goes to the ASG COVID-19 Task Force chairman for vetting before a decision by the governor and lieutenant governor.
Lolo emphasized to cabinet members that “we operate within the silos of our own organizations without compromising the efforts of other agencies charged to uphold their own statutory mandates.”
He explained that DoH and LBJ Medical Center “drive most of our decision-making process” while Public Safety, in conjunction with other agencies in the law enforcement community, focus on enforcement and border security.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 task force serves as the central hub for the flow of information with the ASG Emergency Operation Center as its extension with support agencies and representation.
“At the forefront of all our efforts, the health and safety of our people will always be our primary objective with equal commitment to the protection of our first responders,” Lolo said. “We applaud your zeal and sacrifices to ensure we mitigate the accelerated pace of this pandemic to American Samoa.”
PUBLIC RELEASE OF INFORMATION
Lolo also pointed out that the policy on release of information to the media is already in place and urged all ASG entities to follow it fully, to avoid disinformation. However, questions pertaining to the services provided by a specific department can be released to the public by the cabinet member on the advisories and guidance approved by the governor.
Lolo also advised cabinet members to provide daily information to the Governor’s Office to allow for daily public release to keep the public abreast with the “work and actions we are engaged in to protect them.”
In a 2-page Mar. 23rd memo to cabinet members, the governor outlined the protocol for release of information to the news media and the public, saying these protocols are put in place to preempt the release of inaccurate information to the public as it “only serves to undermine our credibility causing unnecessary suspicion over the accuracy of information that we release.”
According to the governor, effective Mar. 23rd, all COVID-19 related information will be released to the public — including the media — through the Governor’s Office, which also handles public questions concerning provision of the COVID-19 declaration.
Additionally, health related questions are to relayed to the Health director, while travel advisory questions are referred to the Attorney General.
And if a cabinet member has issues on decisions made on the policies, Lolo advised to “please discuss your opinions and concerns with me instead of projecting them to others in the community or even the media.”
“You are part of this administration and it is your sworn duty to adhere to the articulated policies and guiding principles,” he said, noting that one of the “keystone values of our administration is transparency.”