19 Aug 2020

American Samoan governor outlines FEMA stoush

8:30 pm on 19 August 2020

American Samoa's Governor says the withdrawal of federal officers from the territory was over the refusal to waive quarantine requirements for the agency known as FEMA.

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Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga Photo: RNZI / Monica Miller

The Department of Health refused to lower the quarantine time from 14 days to three for someone who had traveled from Florida via Dallas, San Francisco and Hawai'i

Lolo Matalasi Moliga said a conference call with FEMA's Regional administrator went well into the night and didn't end well.

He said there were two follow-up calls with health authorities and top US officials to see if there were other options but nothing could be agreed upon.

A short time later FEMA confirmed that they were pulling their two staff out of the territory.

The issue first came up when the Department of Health refused to release a retired lieutenant colonel from quarantine who had arrived to work on the Covid-19 response.

The governor said the Department of Interior now understood the local Department of Health was simply acting in the interests of protecting the people of American Samoa.

He said the perception of people in Washington was different from what his administration was trying to do, which was to stop the coronavirus from spreading there.

American Samoa remains the only US territory or jurisdiction to have not had a case of Covid-19.