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UPDATE: Gov's declaration exempts churches from overnight closure

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Religious services are exempted under the public gathering ban between 12 midnight and 5a.m, while the use of face masks and social distancing “is encouraged”, people “must wear masks” at locations where the use of a mask is required.

This according to Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga’s new COVID-19 declaration, issued last Friday, and effective Feb. 20th for 30-days through Mar. 21st.  The new declaration supersedes the one dated Jan. 30th and amended Feb. 2nd — which makes it mandatory to wear face masks and observe social distancing, for public and private sectors.

The mandatory mask and social distancing requirement came at a time when the first US repatriation flight landed in American Samoa —  which is under the Code Blue threat level with no coronavirus cases.


Under the previous declaration, public gatherings, including religious worship, was only allowed from 5a.m. to 12 midnight.

But the new declaration states that, public gatherings, “except for religious services”, are prohibited between 12 midnight and 5a.m. Furthermore, this provision, does not affect the authority of village councils to enact regulations imposing curfews or restricting public gatherings, pursuant to local law.

However, bingo games for fundraising purposes remain suspended.

Samoa News reported last Friday that local resident Steven Jay Pincus Hueter has taken his alleged violation of civil and constitutional rights due to the territory’s COVID-19 restrictions to the federal court in Washington D.C, while his local case remains pending in the High Court of American Samoa.

In particular, Hueter’s complaint alleges violation of his civil and constitution rights guaranteed in the constitution based on local COVID-19 restrictions, which prohibited him and others from attending church service from 12mid to 5a.m. (See Samoa News edition Feb. 19th for details.)

Under the new declaration, business’ operating hours remain the same — from 5a.m to 12 midnight and this is also the same restriction for public transportation — taxis and aiga buses.

However, StarKist and its direct documented business affiliates, water production, and oxygen gas production are exempted. And buses under contract with StarKist are also exempted.


“Use of masks and social distancing is encouraged,” according to the new declaration, which also states that any person, business, organization, or agency may require mask use inside of any building or at any public gathering under its authority.

“All persons must wear masks that cover their mouth and nose in or at a location where mask use is required by the person, business, organization, or agency who controls a location,” the declaration says.

However, the mask requirement is excepted for:

•           children under 2 years of age;

•           a person who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act;

•           a person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or regulations;

•           a person who is the sole occupant of a vehicle or office; and

•           while a person is eating or drinking where permitted by person, business, organization or agency who controls that location.


All regular scheduled passenger flights to and from American Samoa remain suspended. The Governor or Lieutenant Governor may authorize flights based on the needs of the territory and passengers of any permitted flight must comply with entry requirements and any additional requirements contained in the governor’s or lieutenant governor’s written authorization.

In a separate news release, also last Friday, the Governor’s Office announced that a special inter-Samoa flight has been agreed upon by the governor and Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi for today, Feb. 22.

The flight will transport 29 passengers who have pending Nonimmigrant Visa applications with the U.S. Embassy in Samoa for future travel to Honolulu for medical treatment. (See details of news release printed elsewhere in today’s edition.)

And with flights suspended between Honolulu and Pago Pago, the next repatriation flight from Hawaii is scheduled for Mar. 10th. The out bound flight — Pago Pago to Honolulu — is a Medicaid charter, which will include patients and escorts, as well as non-patients, who will pay the cost-share of the flight.

Click on attachment below to download full text of declaration