Written by: Mary Anne Peck, Mary Anne Peck: Writing and Workshops
The holiday season is a wonderful time of joy with friends and family. However, with the increases in travel and large events, the holidays can bring heightened risks of disease and infection.
If you and your family are trying to avoid COVID-19, RSV, and flu during the holidays, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMSThe symptoms of flu, COVID, and RSV include fever, muscle soreness, coughing, headaches, sore throat, runny nose, and digestive difficulties. Individuals with COVID may also temporarily lose their ability to taste or smell.
If you start to exhibit any of these symptoms, you can take an at-home test to rule out COVID, or you can visit the LBJ Emergency Room or a DOH Clinic to talk with a doctor.
STAY UP-TO-DATE ON VACCINESVaccinations are powerful tools that help your immune system respond to disease. However, vaccinations, such as the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, need to be regularly updated to continue to work effectively.
If you haven’t visited a medical clinic yet for this year’s vaccinations, visiting before you attend any Christmas or New Year’s celebrations can help keep you and your family safe from disease.
In American Samoa, our community can visit any of the DOH clinics or the LBJ Hospital for vaccinations.
WEAR A MASKSince the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, mask-wearing has become a common practice for avoiding illness. If you are worried about attending a large holiday party, church service, or family gathering, masks can provide you with some peace of mind.
Looking to incorporate some holiday cheer into your mask-wearing? Try wearing a holiday themed cloth mask over your medical, KN95, or N95 mask!
Please remember, in order for a face mask to effectively protect against disease, it must fully cover your mouth and nose.
DISINFECT HANDS AND SURFACESAs you enjoy the holiday events with your family, there are several steps you can take to disinfect yourself and your surroundings, such as:
Outdoor events create an environment where everyone has ample space to move around without being too close to other attendees. This space helps reduce the risk of contracting COVID or the flu.
SET BOUNDARIES If you are hosting a holiday party, one way to ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones is to set clear boundaries. This can include asking loved ones to stay home if they have any symptoms of the flu or COVID. You can also ask for people to take a rapid COVID test before coming over for the Secret Santa.
VIRTUAL ALTERNATIVES FOR HOLIDAY PARTIESIf you are sick, then consider some virtual alternatives that can help you to spend time with friends and family as you recover. Messaging apps, texting, phone calls, and video conferencing all offer ways for us to connect with others and spread holiday cheer, even when we can’t meet face-to-face.
LET’S WORK TOGETHER TO KEEP OUR COMMUNITY HEALTHY!Caring for our community this holiday means more than picking the perfect presents and cooking delicious food. We can work together to keep our community healthy and safe this Christmas by updating our vaccinations, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks whenever we can. These simple steps go a long way in protecting the most vulnerable members of our community and can help us all to have a wonderful holiday.
Written by: Mary Anne Peck, Mary Anne Peck: Writing and Workshops
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and it is a chance for our community to learn more about the treatment options for diabetes, the complications that come with this condition, and the ways we can work together to prevent future diabetes cases.
As the world recovers from the initial outbreak of the pandemic, it is important to stay informed about the effects of COVID-19 and the ways that common chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, can complicate COVID.
HOW DO CHRONIC ILLNESSES IMPACT COVID?
“Chronic illness” is a broad term used to describe a long list of conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a chronic disease is “a condition that lasts 1 year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both.” Chronic illnesses include conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
While there is no proof that diabetes increases a person’s risk of contracting COVID, studies have found that diabetic patients are at a higher risk for serious complications from COVID. This risk increases for people with more than one chronic condition, such as a combination of diabetes and heart disease.
Diabetic individuals often experience low levels of inflammation as a part of their condition. If they contract coronavirus, this pre-existing inflammatory response is worsened, leading to complications such as insulin resistance. According to recent studies, “By triggering airway hyper-reactivity, insulin resistance increases the risk of respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary collapse in patients with diabetes and COVID-19 infection.”
After the initial infection, people with diabetes face additional COVID-19 complications. For example, patients with diabetes are more likely to experience long-COVID symptoms such as fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and respiratory issues.
DIABETES IN AMERICAN SAMOA
The diabetes rate in American Samoa is high, putting the population at high risk for severe COVID complications. According to Yale University, 1 in 3 adults in American Samoa are diabetic, and as a result, American Samoa has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Ranking at #12 in the world, the prevalence of diabetes here in American Samoa is a serious public health issue. The medical teams at the LBJ Diabetes Program and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Medical Mission are using this month to bring more awareness to our community about the dangers of diabetes, with local leaders becoming involved.
“It deeply saddens me to see even young children, as young as 14, facing the consequences of this illness in our local dialysis center,” said Acting Governor Talauega E. V. Ale at a recent event. “We must acknowledge our role in exacerbating this issue through excessive consumption and unhealthy lifestyles.”
If you are experiencing symptoms of diabetes, then getting tested is recommended. Doctors at LBJ Hospital or local ASDOH clinics will listen to your concerns and order blood and urine tests to check blood sugar levels.
Individuals who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Getting tested can help you to make important lifestyle changes and work with medical professionals to create your treatment plan.
Once diagnosed, stay in contact with your doctor and follow your treatment plan as closely as possible. This may involve changing your diet, exercising to increase strength and lower BMI, and taking medications consistently. Each of these steps can help you to manage your diabetes and the stress it can put on you physically and mentally.
BUILDING A HEALTHY COMMUNITY
There are many ways we can work to create a healthier community here in American Samoa–in fact, we already have! The COVID vaccination rate in American Samoa is nearly 8% higher than the average global vaccination rate. The community worked to prevent widespread damage during the pandemic, and now, we have the chance to make more positive changes.
For some, building a healthy community involves spreading awareness about prevalent health issues such as diabetes. For others, building a healthy community involves improving mental health, wellbeing, and resilience. Through community events, workshops, medical treatments, and education, we have the power to help our community improve physical and mental well-being.
Interested in learning more? You can learn more about COVID-19’s impact on our community at the Alliance’s website!
Written by: Mary Peck
The COVID-19 pandemic affected all aspects of life for people around the world. Living through a pandemic caused many people to see changes in their physical health, mental health, and social interactions.
One area of life that changed during the pandemic is the professional sphere. Organizations adopted a variety of strategies in order to keep their staff safe, including remote work, mask policies, flexible scheduling, and more.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 IN THE WORKPLACEWhile the technology has been available for remote work for over a decade, working-from-home was a new experience for many workers at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
According to Pew Research Center, 57% of workers whose jobs can be performed remotely had never worked from home prior to the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. These new experiences have led to a variety of workplace changes in communication strategies, project management tools, and collaborative efforts. Many workplaces have also amended their previous sick leave policies to account for highly infectious diseases such as COVID.
American Samoa fought to reach high vaccination rates while keeping the border closed in 2020 and 2021, and businesses had to quickly adjust and re-evaluate past practices involving sickness in the workplace. In 2023, the ASDOH Community Clinics continue to offer COVID testing, as well as documentation for sick leave and home visits.
STRATEGY #1: PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF DISEASE In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) established recommended practices to improve the health and safety of employees in the workplace. Some of these recommendations included:
These recommended practices are still helpful for organizations in 2023. While these practices can help to limit the spread of disease, during the height of the pandemic many organizations, including the Alliance, chose to implement work-from-home policies.
By sending employees home and helping them establish workstations where they can perform their duties, organizations such as the Alliance were able to limit exposure to disease.
STRATEGY #2: PROVIDING THE TOOLS FOR SUCCESS When switching to a remote work environment, it is important for organizations to ensure that their staff has all of the tools they need for success.
For the American Samoa Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, this meant providing staff with the materials needed to create workplace stations. According to Executive Director Jennifer Tofoaeono, the Alliance provided staff with:
These tools allowed Alliance staff to continue to help survivors and advocates during the pandemic, even as they worked from their homes.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlights additional tech tools that can help remote teams to thrive. In addition to the tools listed by the Alliance leadership, the Chamber of Commerce recommends virtual tools and apps such as:
Providing these tools in the event of a public health crisis can ensure that your staff are able to complete their duties with minimal stress.
STRATEGY #3: PRIORITIZING SAFETY Since 2020, the Alliance has worked to prioritize safety in their offices in Tafuna and Nu'uuli. The safety precautions taken include:
There are many small ways that organizations can prioritize safety in the face of a pandemic. Providing masks, offering information about vaccination and local treatment options, and re-evaluating sick leave policies are simple and low-cost ways to prioritize employee safety.
BUILDING A BETTER WORKPLACE In the aftermath of the pandemic, organizations around the world have been given the chance to make changes, big and small, that create safer and healthier spaces.
Building a better workplace means prioritizing staff wellness. Building a better workplace means taking steps to improve the health and safety of anyone who walks through your doors. How are you building a better workplace?
If you are looking for more information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can visit https://www.asalliance.co/covid-19-monthly-articles for a collection of articles available in English and Samoan. These articles are “funded by the CARES Act under the Family Violence and Prevention Services Act informing the community to prepare, prevent, and respond to COVID-19.”
Written by: Mary Ann Peck, Malaga Creations, Image from blogs.cdc.gov/global/
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted American Samoa differently than any other place on the planet. Our island did not document its first coronavirus case until 18 months after the pandemic began, and due to strict travel limitations and quarantine policies, American Samoa was able to keep the pandemic at bay until high amounts of our population were vaccinated.
However, the COVID-19 virus is now present on our island, and it is important that we all remain aware of the steps we can take to keep ourselves and the vulnerable populations within our community safe and healthy.
The Symptoms of COVID-19COVID-19 can present with a variety of symptoms. These symptoms may be less severe in a person who tests positive after being vaccinated. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
According to the World Health Organization, there is a long list of other symptoms you may experience during COVID. These symptoms include:
If you are presenting with these symptoms, you may want to be tested for COVID-19 so you can self-quarantine if needed. Additionally, if you are having difficulty breathing, if you have lost consciousness at any point, or if you have pain in your chest, you should seek medical attention at the hospital or a clinic.
COVID-19 ComplicationsIt is important to note that individuals with certain health conditions and seniors are at higher risk of complications if they contract COVID-19. According to the CDC, people with any of the conditions listed on the CDC’s COVID-19 page are more likely to be hospitalized, require the use of a ventilator, or even die from COVID-19. Some of these conditions include:
If you have any of these conditions, or the others listed by the CDC, please reach out to the hospital or your local clinic if you suspect you have COVID-19.
How Does COVID-19 Effect Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence?According to UN Women, there has been an increase in domestic violence since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many reasons for this, including:
For those who live with their abusers, the social distancing and quarantine periods associated with COVID are a serious source of stress.
This has made the work of organizations such as the American Samoa Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence even more important. By providing survivors with information about community resources and hosting workshops focused on building resilience, the Alliance is able to help survivors on our island who were and are still impacted by COVID-19.
Local Resources for COVID-19 TreatmentThe American Samoa Department of Health continues to provide treatment and resources for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.
ASDOH clinics in Aunu’u, Amouli, Faagalu, Tafuna, and Leone all offer COVID-19 testing services for anyone who suspects they may be sick. If you test positive, the ASDOH can provide documentation of this, allowing you to work from home for 5 days.
The Department of Health also conducts follow-up appointments for those who test positive for COVID-19, and home visits are an option for those with limited mobility or other complicating factors.
While all ASDOH clinics conduct COVID-19 testing, further treatment through IV therapeutics is available exclusively at the Tafuna Clinic. The IV therapeutics available include:
Before taking these medications, be sure to talk with your doctor about possible drug interactions.
Prevention StrategiesCOVID-19 is still a major health issue, and it is important for our entire island community to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID and other diseases when possible.
If you are feeling unwell, there are several steps you can take to prevent the spread of COVID, including:
By taking these steps, you can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in American Samoa.
Coming Together as a Community While the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, this disease still has an impact on our community. The stress associated with sickness, quarantine, and recovery weighs on many people.
If you are in American Samoa and you are struggling with COVID-19 related stresses, there are resources available to you within our community, including:
Whether you are seeking psychiatric medication, therapy, or community programs focused on building resilience, there are options on island that can help you to recover from the effects that COVID-19 has had on your life.
Two weeks ago, we received news that Alliance Staff had diagnosed positive for Covid-19. It has been over a year and half since that happened, and my mind reeled, that Covid was still here in American Samoa. I immediately reviewed our policies and notified our Board. Our policies require staff to work remotely for two weeks, and we all were to be tested. Upon review, it is important to note CDC guidelines have changed.
CDC guidelines show as of May 11, 2023, the federal Covid-19 PHE ended. This means CDC’s authorization to collect data will end. Vaccines continue to remain available, but certain covid-19 at home tests may not be covered by insurance, treatments will remain available, but national reporting of Covid-19 may change. Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19 have changed. When you visit the CDC page you can find a tool that will help to determine if you need to isolate or take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The information and what we had in our current Policies and Procedures needed to be changed. CDC has provided instructions on isolation, and count days, whether you had symptoms or did not have symptoms. You are reminded to isolate at least five (5) days, not the 14 days we use in our policies. There are also recommendations on what to do if you have no symptoms, and are fever free, as well as when to remove your mask.
It is imperative that we all stay current in our information. As Covid-19 is still on our island, but and staying current can help us to get better sooner.
To learn more visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html
This article is funded through the Family Violence Prevention Services Administration American Response Program Treatment & Mitigation Grant. To read more press here.
Written by: PROVISION
Three years ago when the Covid-19 pandemic first afflicted the globe, no one thought it would impact the world as it has. Scientists were scrambling to make a vaccine that would help save lives and once they accomplished that, boosters were next. As people around the world would recover from this illness, it was unknown what was next. Years later, people are still suffering from ongoing symptoms of Covid-19. Post-acute conditions of COVID-19 (PASC), is also known as, “long Covid.”
Individuals that have Covid-19 normally get better in a few days to a few weeks after infection. According to research, the virus can now infect various parts of the body and linger in the organs. This idea may provide evidence about the persisting illness of “long Covid” and indicate why it can be a real problem for many, including the health-care system, for some time to come.
An estimate of at least 65 million people are living with long-term Covid, and the numbers are rising every day. It is often a debilitating illness that occurs in at least 10% of severe acute cases. In August of 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that “no laboratory test can definitively distinguish post-COVID conditions from other causes.” However, long Covid or PASC can be defined as symptoms that linger or progress after the initial infection, lasting more than a few months. Conditions can include, but are not limited to: trouble breathing, stubborn cough, tiredness, headaches, sleeping problems, anxiety, heart palpitations, cognitive dysfunction, stomach problems and other conditions that interfere with everyday activities.
We don’t know why people go through prolonged periods of Covid and research is still ongoing. There are doctors and scientists who consider that the cause could simply be the body’s response to a new germ.
Common symptoms in children include pain in the muscles and joints, fatigue, difficulty sleeping or focusing, cough, and headaches. Oftentimes, it can be difficult for young children to describe these symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to gather information, so there could still be other symptoms in younger groups.
If you think you or someone you know are dealing with long Covid, talk to a doctor immediately. Currently, doctors have no medication or therapy for treatment, but they can give you the best advice on how to manage your symptoms.
Tusia: Judy Mata’utia
A tatou malamalama atili e faatatau i uiga o le taumulimuli le faatagaina, atonu o lea mafai ona maitauina ai nei uiga ae le’i faatupu teleina, ma atonu o lea mafai ai ona faia ni tulaga e ono puipuia mai ai tatou. Afai e te silafia o lo’o taumulimuli se isi ia te oe- i le lautele, i luga o le upega tafailagi, po’o faia i nisi tulaga faatekonolosi – e mafai ona e maua i le faalogona le mautonu ma le lamatia. E tatau ona faia ni la’asaga ma fuafuaga e puipuia ai oe po’o le a’apa atu i se isi e mafai ona fesoasoani ia te oe.
O lea le taumulimuli le faatagaina?O ni faiga faifaipea e le mana’omia, o ni faiga faalavelave po’o nisi lava faiga e faasaga i se tasi ina ia lagona ai le fefe. E pei o soligatulafono e faatatau i sauaga tau feusuaiga, e faapena le taumulimuli le faatagaina – e faatatau uma lava i le fiamalosi ma le fiapulea. E eseese faauigaina o le tulafono o le taumulimuli le faatagaina i totonu o setete taitasi ma e faapena foi le tele o amioga eseese e maitauina ai le taumulimuli le faatagaina, e aofia ai:
Mo nisi faamatalaga e faatatau i le taumulimuli le faatagaina, faafeso’ota’i mai Le Mau i le (684)699-0272.
Written by: PROVISION Photo from: Department of Health, American Samoa Facebook
According to Samoa News, the Covid-19 Task Force will complete its work by the third week in January 2023 (Samoa News, 2022). When the emergency declarations end, American Samoa borders will be open beginning January 1, 2023. The Task Force agrees meetings are no longer necessary, but reporting requirements by local Government Agencies (i.e., DOH, LBJ Medical center, ancillary agencies, etc.) would still be required. The Task Force discussed the possibilities of having a close out event by January 17, 2023. During the pandemic domestic violence and sexual assault cases intensified since the outbreak of Covid-19. Council on Criminal Justice reported there was an 8% increase in U.S. Domestic Violence Incidents following stay-at-home orders. The Journal of Emergency Medicine reports cases increased by 25 to 33% globally.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, American Samoa has implemented lockdowns, and air mobility restrictions, leaving many women trapped with their abusers. The increase in stories of violence during the pandemic were shared stories of abused victims who were trapped, and isolated from social contact. Support networks in American Samoa changed during the pandemic as families were not allowed to gather or share the same spaces. Victims were made to wear masks, which can trigger memories of being smothered by their abusers. Decreasing work hours for employees during the pandemic impacted many women’s ability to leave abusive situations. What we have learned during this pandemic is isolation has placed victims causing increased harm. The more time spent isolated with abusers has caused intensified interpersonal violence.
Here are ways that we can help our local victims. First is to increase a victim and their family’s wellness. The Alliance has built in resilience tools in every webinar, training, and discussion within the community. This can be teaching them how to build words that are positive, finding a safe space to separate themselves from their abuser. Secondly, defining and creating safe living conditions. We share information on our website, and Facebook on how to Safety Plan. Third, not being able to access services. There are limited-service providers on the island, as well as community organizations. The Alliance has been able to build connections with service providers and we refer victims directly for assistance. It can be daunting for victims, but we also rely on other victims who can lend a helping hand.
As reported, the pandemic has seen an increase in domestic and sexual violence. There are a myriad way how the pandemic impacted lives of victims. Yet, it is important to note during the pandemic we were able to determine how to improve or add to the needs of victims.
Council on Criminal Justice (2022) New Analysis Shows 8% Increase in U.S. Domestic Violence Incidents Following Pandemic Stay-At-Home Orders. Retrieved on: 12/29/2022 from: https://counciloncj.org/new-analysis-shows-8-increase-in-u-s-domestic-violence-incidents-following-pandemic-stay-at-home-orders/
Yang, M (2022) Shadow pandemic of domestic violence. The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved on: 12/25/2022 from: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2022/06/shadow-pandemic-of-domestic-violence/
Written by: Tina Tofaeono
This is a time of year when loved ones travel far and wide to see each other and spend the holidays together. The holiday season of 2022 got off to a bumpy start with RSV and Influenza numbers on the rise and COVID-19 still looming in the background. The US is experiencing levels of RSV and influenza that are higher than usual, especially among children and COVID-19 continues to circulate across the United States.
It’s important that we know the symptoms of each of these. The flu and COVID-19 have very similar symptoms and it can be very difficult to tell them apart. Some similar symptoms they share are: fever, chills, headaches, cough, muscle soreness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, runny nose and sore throat. One symptom that is unique to COVID-19 is the loss of taste or smell.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs and breathing passages. RSV symptoms are: runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, wheezing and a decrease in appetite. Most people with RSV recover in a week or two, but it can be serious for infants and older adults.
The one thing the three of these illnesses have in common is they are all contagious, so people should be vigilant with wearing a mask. While nationwide mask mandates have expired, it’s still a good idea to have them on hand when you don’t feel well.
If you’re not sure what you have, you can always take a flu or COVID test to rule those out. Currently, the only test available for differentiating flu, COVID, and RSV at home is the Labcorp Pixel test, where users swab themselves at home and send the sample in for lab testing. However, this test has a turnaround time of one to two days and hardly competes with an at-home test that has results in 15-30 minutes.
If you think you may have RSV, Influenza (flu), or COVID and you plan on being around loved ones, it might just be best to mask up and/or isolate yourself to protect the ones you love this holiday season. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Written by staff or Alliance Partners