All repat COVID tests negative — next flight tentatively set March 10
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga and Lt. Governor Talauega Eleasalo Ale in two press statement’s released late Friday announced that the final COVID test for all 159 passengers on the first repatriation test flight came out NEGATIVE and the admin released new rules for travelers.
Lt. Governor Talauega serving as the Chairman and GAR (Governor’s Appointed Representative) of the COVID Task Force, further stated, “We have proven that we can successfully execute a repatriation flight for our stranded people to return home. We have also learned a lot of lessons to improve on future flight coordination. We want to extend our sincere thanks to Governor David Ige of the State of Hawaii and all the local, state and federal agencies who helped make this flight possible. We also want to thank the hard-working employees of the Department of Health and our Hawaii office who have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this first test flight. There will be several changes that will be done in preparation for the next flight.”
“The effective collaboration of all the local, state and federal government agencies was critical to the success of our first repatriation flight and we cannot understate our gratitude to all those employees. Our main objectives for this first test flight were to trial our quarantine procedures, logistics coordination and passenger movement both in Honolulu and in American Samoa. Our government wanted to ensure that we could confirm departure of the repatriation test flight on February 1, as the original departures dates had already been delayed twice from January 22 and January 29. The Governor’s wish was that we implement with efficiency and safety the first flight to get the repatriation process underway—so we could immediately learn how to safely bring our more than 1,000 residents’ home.”
Now that the first flight has been successfully carried out, the government is looking to schedule 5 to 8 future flights with a focus on financial sustainability and continued safety.
The government engaged in weekly assessments of the repatriation efforts. Lt. Governor Talauega added, “The robust and stringent quarantine procedures that we have debated upon and agreed upon, worked. The first wall of defense with our pre-travel quarantine in Honolulu screened out our COVID affected residents—the 18 who had contracted COVID. They were removed from the repatriation flight manifest in Honolulu and will have another chance to try to return home on a future flight—when they are healthy and declared safe to return home. We have successfully shut out the virus from even entering our territory on this first trial run. The challenge for us is to maintain these stringent requirements to ensure the continued protection and safety of our people.”
The next repatriation flight is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Quarantine in Honolulu is tentatively scheduled for begin on February 25, 2021. The Department of Health will contact eligible passengers for the next flight in the next coming week.
ELIGIBILITY CATEGORIES FOR TRAVELERS
The government’s priority is the reunification of families separated because of the American Samoa border closure. Lessons learned from the first test flight require that the government defines and clarifies eligibility criteria in prioritizing repatriation passengers. The priority list based on the “first to register” on the DOH website remains the same, however, the government will scrutinize the legitimacy of stranded residents and have added additional priority categories to address the collective interests of the government and our community.
The repatriation flights are NOT intended to be used for recreational or unwarranted travel into American Samoa. The government also has an interest in prioritizing medical referral patients who need to return home, repatriating college students impacted by changing school schedules, essential workers who need to travel to American Samoa and the return of ASG personnel. Thus, the government has increased seats for the incoming flight to accommodate these specific hardship cases.
1. Repatriation of Residents: All repatriation cases require proof of American Samoa residency and payment of the cost share before they enter quarantine prior to entry into the Honolulu quarantine facility. The cost share has been set at $500 per person for the March 10, 2021, flight. Lap children under the age of 2 years old will travel for free. To help alleviate the financial hardship on passengers, the government is providing partial subsidy for the cost share and subsidize the costs of lap children. 120 seats are allocated for this category.
2. Medical Referrals: LBJ and Medicaid referral patients shall be prioritized for repatriation. Medicaid and LBJ will receive 30 seats on every flight to accommodate returning patients who have completed their medical appointments. The policy is not to add unnecessary mental and emotional stress and financial burden on referral patients with medical conditions whose recovery and wellbeing should be protected.
3. GO’s Reserve: The government through the Governor’s Office will have 50 seats to be used for ASG purposes and hardship cases—on a case-by-case basis. All requests must be submitted to the Governor’s Office. Examples of hardship cases are as follows:
a. Students: Our children from American Samoa, who are in college in the U.S., have also been greatly impacted with the COVID pandemic that caused the closure of universities. This has forced their families to coordinate alternative housing while students do virtual learning. The stress, fear for their safety, emotional and psychological toll on our children and their parents cannot be understated. Eligible students are those who are enrolled in college or graduated from college in 2020.
b. Essential Employees: Any private sector employer that has an essential employee that needs repatriation, may request priority consideration. The government’s interest is to support the ongoing operations of our private sector as they are a fundamental player in our territory’s economic stability. Proof of employment must be provided for authentication of employment status. No “new” employment hires shall be accepted to avoid bypassing and frustrating the conditions of repatriation of legitimate residents. Requests for essential employees must be made by the employer.
4. All seats not used by medical referrals, essential employees, students or GO/ASG Reserve shall be reassigned to repatriation passengers.
Tourists, temporary visitors, transit visitors and American Samoan US residents who want to visit their families in American Samoa for any reason. No animals will be allowed on the repatriation flights.