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Fono raises concerns over some individuals on latest FEMA flight

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale has requested an emergency hearing with the Coronavirus Task Force to discuss the issue about three people that were on a FEMA flight that arrived in the territory last Friday.

The hearing with the Task Force was originally scheduled for Thursday this week, however due to concerns from several Representatives who raised questions about the safety of the community after they received reports about some FEMA personnel on last Friday’s flight had tested positive last month for the coronavirus, Speaker Savali asked the chairman of the House Health Committee, Rep. Vesi Talalelei Fautanu Jr to move the hearing forward.

Chairman Vesi raised this issue during the House announcements and requested an answer from the Coronavirus Task Force whether American Samoa is still a coronavirus free country. He told the chamber that according to reports he received, there were three people that were on the FEMA flight who were in question.

The three people according to Vesi were a FEMA contractor from Florida, Representative Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen and his wife.

He also told the house that members of the public are also asking questions about the reason why people are being brought into the territory while the majority of our people are still stranded in Hawaii and on the mainland.

Vesi said that the woman from FEMA who arrived on the flight Friday afternoon returned on the same flight.

The reason why she was refused entry to the territory was because she had tested positive for coronavirus in June.

He further stated that if Rep.Faimealelei and his wife were in contact with the woman from FEMA, DOH officials need to monitor their status.

Vice Speaker, Fetu Fetui Jr echoed Vesi’s statement and told the chamber that he understands that everyone has the same concerns regarding this issue. He said that he had spoken to the Director of the Department of Public Health regarding this issue, and the Director assured him that there is nothing to worry the community about because the faipule and his wife are well protected in a secure quarantine location while the woman from FEMA was returned on the same flight.

Pago Pago Representative, Vesiai Poyer Samuelu echoed Vesi’s concerns and questioned why people are being quarantined at the Tradewinds Hotel when there is a government location like the Pago Youth Center that can be used.

Vesiai said his main concern is the safety of the community, especially those at the Tradewinds Hotel, including employees.

Speaker Savali said that any person who needs to be quarantined upon arrival in the territory is put in a secure location and cautioned representatives to deliver the correct information to the community and not send mixed information that causes confusion in the community.

The issue regarding the FEMA flight was also mentioned during the confirmation hearing of Alfonzo Pete Galea’i before the House Public Safety committee earlier yesterday morning.

Reports received by Samoa News stated that the woman tested positive for coronavirus on June 15. During that time, it appeared that the woman was never sick and there was no record of her being seen by a physician.

Before she traveled to the territory however she had another COVID-19 test, which was negative.

The three passengers all presented negative COVID-19 tests, which is the DOH requirement, so they disembarked and went through the processing for arrivals by DOH staff at the airport.

It was during the DOH checks that the woman’s positive COVID-19 test on June 15 was discovered.

Talanei News is reporting that Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua says three physicians made the decision to send the woman back on the FEMA flight. She was not given another COVID-19 test here.

Rep Faimealelei and his wife who traveled with the FEMA rep on the flight from Honolulu were taken for quarantine to the Tradewinds Hotel, which is where military, FEMA and other federal personnel have been quarantined since the borders with Hawaii were closed.

Also taken for quarantine at the hotel was the head of the ground handling company, which services the FEMA flights. The reports say this is because he had gone on board the plane several times.