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DoH confident that with protocols the COVID-19 virus can be contained

 Dr. Aifili John Tufa
With no pre-travel quarantine, COVID positives will remain possible

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With American Samoa’s strict protocol for travelers entering Pago Pago, Health Department officials said the territory is able to contain in quarantine and then isolation the COVID-19 cases after three travelers from the last two flights from Honolulu tested positive.

DoH called an emergency news conference last Thursday night to announce two more positive COVID-19 cases, both of whom are fully vaccinated local residents who returned to the territory on the Sept. 27 Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu.

The two confirmed cases along with three “close contacts” — or passengers on that same flight — are now in 14-day isolation. (See last Friday’s Samoa News edition for details.)

Speaking at the emergency news conference, the territory’s lead epidemiologist, Dr. Aifili John Tufa of DoH said the “good news” is that “we’re able to contain” the new cases and isolate them.

So far, he said, American Samoa now has three confirmed imported  (border) COVID-19 cases — one from the Sept. 13 flight from Honolulu and two on the Sept. 27 flight.

DoH “wanted to let the public know that, so long as we don’t have the pre-travel quarantine in Honolulu, there’s going to be that possibility of travelers coming in and bringing in the virus like we have in the past two flights,” Dr. Tufa said.

“But rest assure, and know that our policies, and our procedures here are working very well,” he said. “It’s best that we discover these cases while in quarantine and then isolate them out to our isolation facility to make sure that it’s (the COVID-19 virus) contained.”

He called on the community to “work with us” and that DoH is contacting LBJ Medical Center and other clinics to “make sure that we’re continuing the surveillance program here. We ask people to help, work with us.”

He reiterated that American Samoa’s “strict protocols of the three tests in Hawaii: 10-days before travel, 5-days before travel and two days before travel” were able to identify and isolate travelers who tested positive.

“So it’s working very well,” he said and noted that it’s also a reminder for “people that you need to be able to live a conservative lifestyle in Hawaii before traveling here.”

 “…And with the positive cases we have from the last flight, we’re seen that we’re able to absorb these cases and contain the virus from getting out into the community,” Dr. Aifili said.

DoH’s Clinical Service acting director Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao explained that one of the travelers quarantined at Sadie’s hotel, tested COVID-19 positive and based on the test results it appears that the individual was recently infected with the virus before arriving in the territory.

Additionally, DoH identified two-passengers who were in “close-contact” with the positive case at Sadie’s — as they traveled and roomed together.

At Tradewinds Hotel, one traveler tested positive, said Dr. Lauvao, pointing out that this positive case also appears to have been recently infected with the virus before traveling to American Samoa. Additionally, DoH has identified a traveler who was in “close-contact” with that positive case.