American Samoa lags behind the world in its battle against COVID-19
American Samoa Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga (D) declared a 30-day public health emergency on April 28, which will expire on May 28, coming into effect amidst the spread of Omicron variants BA.1 and BA. 2, which the WHO has found to be more transmissible than Omicron.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 5,800 Samoans have contracted COVID-19. 27 have died. However, American Samoa only reported its first coronavirus case in September 2021.
This declaration also comes amid two nurses being placed on leave after failing to follow American Samoa’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates, which require all first responders and healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated and boosted.
As of May 2, 84.3% of the population is fully vaccinated, while 63.5% of eligible citizens are boosted.
American Samoa’s cases have been gradually declining for more than two weeks. This order seeks to continue this decline and prevent case numbers from increasing further.
The state of emergency has 13 provisions outlining new requirements and recommendations regarding mask use, vaccination, and additional COVID-19 protocol.
It requires mask use and at least 6 feet of social distancing for all public gatherings. Additionally, it limits indoor public gatherings to a maximum of 100 people.
Citizens who contract COVID-19 must register on TALOFAPASS, American Samoa’s travel monitoring application, for daily reporting and contact tracing. This ensures they are following COVID-19 protocol measures and social distancing. They must also self-isolate for 21 days.
It also imposes a territory-wide curfew from 9:00 pm to 4:30 am. All businesses must close at 8:00 pm unless they provide emergency services or have a written exception. Buses and taxis may still operate 24 hours a day.
Certain businesses, including bars, bingo, child daycare, gyms, beauty salons, barbershops, and movie theaters, are all closed without exception. Restaurants may only provide take-out. Dine-in services are prohibited unless exempted.
The declaration encourages businesses to minimize in-person work as much as possible. In-person employees must wear a mask at all times.
In-person learning continues to be prohibited unless exempted by the government. Students and teachers attending in-person must be fully vaccinated and masked at all times unless eating or drinking.
Air and sea travel, as well as all entry permits to American Samoa, are suspended unless an exception is issued. Entrants over 5 years old must be fully vaccinated, wear a mask while traveling to American Samoa, and have proof of a negative COVID test upon arrival.
Anyone who violates these provisions of the state of emergency may be subject to up to 12 months in jail or a fine of $1,000.