Some COVID-19 restrictions ease today but not Hawaii-Pago travel
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga will be extending for another 30-days his current COVID-19 emergency declaration, set to expire today, June 30th, but will also ease more restrictions, such as opening of schools and lifting the limitation of people in public gathering, but still requiring the enforcement of social distancing and wearing face masks.
However, the governor made very clear — when making the announcement at Sunday’s ASG coronavirus task force meeting — that all flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago will remain closed, reiterating his concerns of the spike of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii and the US mainland.
As for the borders of the two Samoas, flights will be reviewed while the Samoa government’s Samoa Shipping Corporation, which manages and operates Samoa owned vessels, announced Monday in Apia that a weekly “cargo only” service will start July 2nd between Apia and Pago Pago.
As of 12 noon Sunday, June 28th, Hawaii state health authorities reported 27 new cases bringing the state’s total to 899, while deaths are at 18, according to the state’s online public records.
In announcing his plans to extend the declaration for another 30-days, Lolo said American Samoa’s borders with Hawaii would remain closed as the number of cases in the Aloha State was heading towards the 1,000 mark and that is very worrisome.
Hawaiian Airlines suspension of flights — until the end of July — was also made known by the governor two weeks ago and the airline has complied.
According to the governor, he has about 10 to 20 letters from local residents wanting to return home and for reopening of flights, but “our priority is to protect our community.”
He acknowledged criticism for not re-opening flights, but said American Samoans stranded in Hawaii and the US mainland, have access to better health care systems if they are sick compared to the limited resources on island.
If there is a local medical emergency, Lolo said there are options available to the government including the use of military planes, but he reiterated the importance of keeping the community safe from the deadly virus and again apologizes to American Samoans stranded off island for not re-opening air service with Hawaii.
WEEKLY CARGO FLIGHT
He said the weekly cargo flight from Honolulu continues to operate and this service is doing quite well. He points out that the cargo flight can be used to bring in a funeral, or return remains of a loved one back home.
However, he emphasized current restrictions in which a request for the flight carrying remains must be first submitted to the Governor’s Office for approval. Lolo instructed acting Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Ta’ase to issue a reminder-advisory to all carriers that any incoming funeral remains must first get the governor’s approval before the paperwork is then sent to the Health Department.
It was emphasized at the meeting, no passenger or family member, is allowed to accompany the remains.
According to the governor, the flights between the two-Samoas will be reviewed during this upcoming period while he continues discussion with Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi to firm up the restart of inter-Samoa sail of the MV Lady Naomi. He said the weekly sail would be for cargo only and no passengers.
But by Sunday evening in Pago Pago (Monday in Apia), the Samoa Shipping Corporation issued a public notice that trips between Apia and Pago Pago “have now been confirmed to resume sailings between the two islands for cargoes only commencing” July 2nd.
Lolo said all schools will re-open under planned extended declaration but each and every student, from ECE to the American Samoa Community College, will be required to wear face-masks.
The governor also instructed DoH and local the Education Department to provide each student three face-masks, washable white type. He said the masks should be purchased and given to students. He suggested that parents look into this issue as well.
Also required in the re-opening of schools is social distancing and sanitizing school property.
Lolo also said there will be no limitation as to the number of people in public gathering, but social distancing and wearing face masks will be required. He said this ease of restrictions also applies to church services. However, public gathering will be restricted to last only up to 9pm.
Lolo said that social distancing and wearing face masks also applies to all campaign events and rallies, pointing out that he observed during such recent events that social distance and wearing face mask protocols under the current Code Blue threat-level were not observed.
He said people riding piggy-back on other people — as he has observed during recent campaign events — is not social distancing.
Current restrictions on operating hours for businesses will remain — from 5am to 9p.m, according to the governor (who had already granted an exemption about two months ago to StarKist Samoa and its partners).
For the government workforce, Lolo said that with the proposed easing of restrictions, all government agencies — including the semi-autonomous agencies — return to full 8-hour days.
For the general government, or the executive branch, Lolo said there “is no overtime” allowed except for those involved with duties relating to the coronavirus.
Overtime for the semi-autonomous agencies will be left up to them to make their decisions as they see fit with their needs, said Lolo, who again stressed that with the general government returning to a full-work day, “no overtime is allowed.”