While the United States holds the most number of coronavirus disease cases in the whole world, there is one part of the country which has not even one confirmed case.
The palm-fringed Polynesian archipelago of American Samoa has not been invaded by the virus that has engulfed the world. The group of islands was able to seal itself from the outside world for more than two months, which in turn kept them safe from COVID-19.
With other islands in the United States already succumbed to the outbreak, public health officials said that American Samoa as been successful in shielding their territory from the virus. During the early days of SARS-CoV-2's invasion in the US, the island group moved quickly to halt all incoming flights to their area. They also increased and improved their capability in testing.
Moreover, before the COVID-19 outbreak the island already adopted social distancing strategies after they were plagued with a measles outbreak last year.
Learning from the past
Using their terrible history during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic which nearly wiped them out neighboring islands as motivation, American Samoa has very aggressive anti-contagion strategies in place which applies to every stage of the crisis.
According to VOA News, the leader of the Roman Catholic church in the territory, Bishop Peter Brown said that the way they live their life is very different from the whole world. He added that church services in the territory were immediately shut down as the virus began to spread in the US.
In addition to this, schools which were supposed to re-open after the measles outbreak forced them to close from December to early March extended their closures after a "continuing" public health emergency was declared by March 23.
Aside from closure of the said establishments and shut down of services, Brown said that life seemed to be pretty normal. However, there was a bit shortage of supplies since shipping has been restricted.
Brown also said that American Samoans have been keeping track of the increasing death toll on the mainland US adding that the people in the states need more help than them.
While the rest of the world has been avoiding social gatherings, 55,000 people in the American Samoan territory are still allowed to go to bars, clubs, and restaurants, however, in limited numbers. The said establishments are only allowed to cater to 10 people at a time.
Moreover, the territory's civil servants have stopped going into offices and are now only working part-time.
However before they became a safe haven, the territory felt high anxiety over the possibility that the virus could devastate them. This is because a high number of their population struggles with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity which heightens the risk of COVID-19.
According to New York Times, telephone interviews and social media postings from people in American Samoa described their situation as a mixture of isolation and relief. They are also unsure of what the future holds for them, but they are happy with the fact that they are safe from the virus.