Five of first group of repatriation passengers test positive for COVID
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Five people out of the 166 passengers screened for the 10-day quarantine in Honolulu, Hawai’i before catching the first scheduled repatriation flight to American Samoa tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday.
These five people are now under special care quarantine by health and medical officials in Hawaii. The remaining 161 passengers, who tested negative, remain under regular quarantine for 10 days before boarding the repatriation flight on Jan. 29th.
This was confirmed by members of the American Samoa Government COVID-19 Task Force during a press conference yesterday morning at the Governor’s Conference Room.
The meeting was attended by Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, along with four members of the task force including the Chair, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale. Members of the media were also invited.
It was during the meeting that Gov. Lemanu updated the Territory on the repatriation flight that will bring home over 160 people.
When asked by Samoa News about the 5 cases, members of the Task Force stated that this is a good sign for the government’s preparations, because it reveals who is infected with the virus.
They assured the public that DoH and LBJ health personnel in Hawaii are being assisted by a team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hawaii Health Department.
Faumuina said that there is nothing to worry about because everyone involved in the repatriation effort is all ready and prepared for anything that may happen when the first flight arrives.
It was reported also that as of this morning, 4,705 people have already received their first dose of the vaccine, while 933 have received their 2nd dose of the vaccine.
HOUSE HEALTH COMMITTEE HEARING WITH COVID019 TASK FORCE
Members of the American Samoa COVID-19 Task Force appeared before the House Health Committee this week to address the issue of the first repatriation flight.
Members of the task force present during the hearing included Faumuina Taufete’e; Motusa T. Nua; Dr. Aifili Tufa and Dr. Saipale Fuimaono. The hearing was chaired by Andra Tereise Samoa.
The hearing was called following concerns voiced earlier this week by some senators over the start of the repatriation flights, while the COVID-19 pandemic remains a global threat and senators wanted more information from the ASG COVID-19 Task Force on their preparations.
Motusa explained during the hearing the the work carried out by DoH since the suspension of air service in March as well as the coordination of preparations for repatriation flights, such as drills at the Pago Pago International Airport to test the readiness of local responders for the repatriation flights.
He said DoH is prepared for the first flight on Jan. 29th and further notes that DoH and LBJ already have a team in Honolulu working on the repatriation flight. They will continue working as one team to make sure our people will be well protected from this deadly virus.
When questioned on the total number of passengers already quarantined in Honolulu, Motusa said 166 passengers for the first flight started quarantine on Jan. 18th for the required 10-day period. Additionally, a team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hawaii Health Department are assisting the DoH team in Honolulu.
He explained the process that once the travelers enter quarantine, no one is allowed to leave the site and none of these travelers’ family members are allowed to visit, he said. Following the 10-day quarantine, all travelers will be bused to the Honolulu airport, where the American Samoa team in Hawaii will assist with check-in and the passengers will then board the flight to Pago Pago.
Faipule were also said that passengers, upon arrival in the territory, would go through Immigration and Customs at the airport and then be taken directly to the Tradewinds Hotel, which the government has taken over, for the required 14-day quarantine period.
It’s at the Tradewinds where the next COVID-19 test of the repats will be administered, as well as the final test before their 14-day quarantine ends.
Rep. Larry Sanitoa questioned the cost of the first flight and who is responsible for it. Motusa said the local Hawaiian Airlines office had given the cost of $250,000 for the round-trip flight. With ASG paying this cost, Motusa said none of the incoming passengers will have to pay for the airfare.
According to Motusa, the Jan. 29th flight is a round-trip charter flight that brings repats and Medicaid referral patients home. The return flight to Honolulu will be used to take Medicaid referral patients and all others wishing to travel to Hawaii.
About 1,300 local residents have already registered on the online registry program set up by the DoH, and according to Motusa, the task force hopes that this number will quickly reduce because the government is now starting the repatriation flights.
Rep. Lua’itaua Gene Pan said that he supported the plan to bring our people back home, however, based on the testimony from members of the task force about the returning flight taking passengers, he believes that the number of people stuck in Hawaii and the United State will continue to grow.
Motusa agreed. He said that our people are in need of seeking medical treatment and making medical appointments and the government has no power to stop these people from seeking medical attention off island.
Rep. Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi disagreed with the task force plan to quarantine people in Hawaii for 10-days before they go through the quarantine process for14-days when they arrive. Vailiuama said that 24 days is too much for elderly people.
Swains Representative Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings said that the task force needs to check on those people who have tested positive with the virus to make sure they receive all the medical attention they need including the testing for three times before they board the flight to American Samoa.