Governor emphasizes to ASG workers to work from home — STAY AT HOME
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Government employees required to work from home at this time due to the governor’s emergency declaration to combat the coronavirus, will be strictly monitored and will not be paid if the person does not comply with set regulations —that they do not venture outside unless to carry out essential tasks.
That’s the verbal warning issued by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during Monday’s cabinet meeting, where the governor tasked police, homeland security and the Attorney General’s Office for monitoring and enforcement.
Provisions of the declaration, effective Mar. 23rd, require ASG agencies to stagger working hours for employees. During his pre-recorded address aired Sunday night on KVZK-TV, the governor said that ASG’s workforce who are 60-years and older need to stay and work from home.
He repeated the same message during Monday’s cabinet meeting, where he participated via teleconference call from his Maugaoali’i government house as he is home-quarantine for 14-days after returning from Hawai’i almost two weeks ago.
Lolo reiterated for ASG workers 60-years and older to work from home for the next four weeks, and said the goal is to not have many people working inside an office. He said all workers would be paid their full-40 hours a week for 4 weeks.
After the 4 weeks, ASG will look at its incoming revenues and budget before deciding on continuing to pay workers the 40-hours a week, he said, noting that even those working from home are to get their full 40-hours a week during the next four weeks.
He asked that directors, along with police and homeland security closely monitor those working from home to ensure they are staying home.
The same monitoring policy also applies to any other ASG workers — under 60-years old — required to work from home.
If a person is caught outside of their home performing an unnecessary task, that person will not be paid for that day.
Lolo said there are only two reasons for leaving the house — to purchase food and other necessities such as paying power bills and going to the hospital. Any other reason for leaving the house will be at the “discretion” of police, he said.
The governor reminded cabinet members and ASG workers that they all have to go through the 14-day required quarantine requirement upon arrival if they travel off island during the emergency declaration and this applies to those currently off island.
Lolo’s two-page “Protocols for working remotely from home” memo was also distributed to directors and the governor pointed out that as “we navigate uncharted waters” due to the COVID-19, “we implore every cabinet member and agency leader to ensure that our first and foremost priority is the health and wellness of every employee. From the most junior to the most senior staff member, all lives matter.”
Accordingly, “executive latitude is extended to you to restructure and reorganize your agency to operationalize the protocols which will be by Human Resources Department aimed to accomplish the workforce policies” dictated in the declaration, he said.
He emphasized that cabinet members and agency leaders are responsible to make sure that their employees adhere to and comply with conditions set forth in the declaration and other changes.
“Specifically, remotely working from home by all government employees carries the condition that the employee must remain at home at all times,” the governor stressed. “If an employee... violates this policy, said employee will not be paid for the entire day if he/ she is seen elsewhere other than his or her home.”
He noted that effective Mar. 23rd, employees who are 60-years and older have been authorized to stay home and if employees leave his/ her home “for medical reasons, the employee is to provide to you a note proving the veracity of this claim.”
The governor also says that the government’s pledge to be fully accountable to the people for the use of their hard-earned money through tax payments “compels all of us to be honest in our dealings.”
“The primary reasons for these radical changes from the standard working format is to save lives,” he said. “This means each and every one of us employees of the American Samoa Government must take responsibility by making sure that we are not the carrier and source of the spread of the coronavirus.”
Lolo also said that he expects all government employees to take the lead in policing their families to ensure that they don’t become victims of COVID-19.
“Given the fluidity and rapidly accelerating pace of the global pandemic, I urge all of you to reaffirm your commitment to the office you hold and the responsibility it entails,” he said. “While this new norm may be an inconvenience and offers some discomfort, the cost-benefits of lives saved will be worth our personal and professional sacrifices.”
At Monday’s cabinet meeting, Lolo stressed to directors the importance of everyone working together, including all ASG employees and members of the community in ensuring the safety of American Samoa from this deadly virus.
Meanwhile, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a supplementary proclamation Monday, ordering the entire state to stay at home and work from home starting yesterday through Apr. 30th. Essential workers, such as health care professionals and public health workers are exempt.
The action taken, according to the Hawaii Health Department, is to reduce the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus and to protect the ability of public and private healthcare providers to handle the influx of new patients and to safeguard public health and safety.
As of Thursday morning, the state reported about 95 cases.