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DoH recommends standing pat with closed borders — until May 31

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Continue with current COVID-19 testing “priorities and criteria”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Among the recommendations from the Health Department for consideration as the coronavirus emergency declaration is scheduled to expire, is to continue closing American Samoa’s borders with Samoa and Hawaii until May 31st.

Furthermore, DoH recommends to continue the current COVID-19 threat level of Code-Blue conditions to May 31st.

The recommendations were made by Health director, Motusa Tuileama Nua at Sunday’s ASG coronavirus task force meeting where he pointed out that another recommendation is for a COVID-19 quarantine and isolation plan at the village level — an issue that the Office of Samoan Affairs is being requested to help out with.

(Samoa News notes that DoH had suggested this plan early last month in the event of an outbreak so officials would be able to easily identify and isolated those who are infected.)

DoH also recommends using local hotels as “stand-by” quarantine facilities and Alternate Care Sites (ACS).

As previously reported by Samoa News, the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce chairperson Ella Gurr had suggested using local hotels and other accommodations as ASG quarantine facilities.  However, task force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira informed Gurr that ASG “lacks the financial wherewithal to pay hotel costs” and ASG is completing new quarantine facilities so the need to quarantine people at the hotel is eliminated.

At the task force meeting, Motusa offered another DoH recommendation, which is to utilize current COVID-19 testing “priorities and criteria agreed upon” by physicians at DoH and LBJ Medical Center, until further notice.

Recommendations from DoH, along with other ASG agencies, as well as those from the private sector and the community are used as the basis of the task force report submitted early this week to the Governor, who will make a decision on the next step for American Samoa when the current one lapses tomorrow, May 1st.

Motusa’s remarks were made towards the end of DoH’s presentation, led by Epidemiologist Dr Aifili John Tufa, who gave the latest World Health Organization coronavirus statistics globally at the time.

The pandemic “has started” to flatten globally, which is “good news for us, hopefully there’s an end in sight in a few months or so, but it’s hard to say right now, but it is starting to slow down,” he said.

“I think if we hold on to our policies now, it will be a safe thing for us to do, because a number of cases, a number of deaths are still out there in the world. Perhaps waiting until these numbers come down before lifting some of our restrictions [would be a good move],” he said.

Dr. Tufa went on to share the data — as of Apr. 25th — on testing for COVID-19. Of the 57 samples, 30 were tested at the DoH lab, and the balance off-island — by the Hawaii state lab and one at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta. Hawaii and CDC tested the first samples, and now DoH is able to conduct tests locally. All tested negative for the virus.

He also said supplies arrived on last Friday’s cargo flight to allow for more local testing. With the shipments — one from the US Health and Human Services/ US Federal Emergency Management and the other from US Office of Insular Affairs — via the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA.) Total number of test kits now on hand is more than 1,200.

Also received from FEMA were 100 swabs for tests.