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Gov. concerned “an asymptomatic carrier” can still spread the coronavirus

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DoH laying plans for community-based coronavirus testing

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa is seeking more than 20,000 coronavirus test kits from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the community-based virus testing, in which 20% of the population would be tested, says Health Department epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa.

Community-based testing of a certain percentage of the population was mentioned during the ASG COVID-19 Task Force meeting earlier this month, with LBJ Medical Center’s chief medical officer Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga pointing to news reports about several off-island jurisdictions, including some cities in the US, such as Los Angeles — testing a large sector of their population.

As previously reported by Samoa News, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is concerned with the fact that “an asymptomatic carrier” — a person who carries the virus but shows no symptoms — can still spread the virus to others, although American Samoa has no confirmed cases.

During a task force meeting this month, the governor said physicians from DoH and LBJ should discuss the size of the local population that should be tested. “If it’s 10% or 20% of population, that recommendation must come from physicians — who are the medical experts — and the task force will then work with FEMA to secure test kits,” he said.

Speaking on KVZK-TV last Thursday night on one of the task force’s COVID-19 awareness programs, Dr. Tufa said total virus samples tested as of last week Wednesday stood at 110 and all came back negative.

“At this point we’re almost 100% sure we don’t have the virus,” he said, adding that it’s been documented and confirmed that the virus can spread from one person to another, and there is concern with people with no symptoms of the virus but do have the virus.

It’s also concerning that the spread of the virus at village levels is possible without DoH and LBJ being aware of it. Additionally, there are many local residents with pre-exiting health conditions.

Therefore, he says the governor wants to conduct a community-based testing, with the percentage identified for testing at 20% - or about 15,000 - of the population. He also said that American Samoa has requested 25,000 test kits from FEMA for this testing plan, starting with health care professionals, first responders and then the community.

He explained that the reason American Samoa is requesting the additional 10,000 of the 25,000 test-kits is to see if the virus currently exits in the territory. And if there is confirmation, DOH would then move to contain the virus.

He said the additional 10,000 test kits would be used for “contact tracking and case investigation.”

In his Fourth Extended Emergency Declaration for the coronavirus, the governor acknowledged that while American Samoa finally has the ability to conduct tests on island, along with more than 1,200 test kits at the time, the governor points out that this is “grossly insufficient to support our testing plan targeting the testing of first responders, systematic individuals, vulnerable population, and then asymptomatic persons, to yield confidence in the effectiveness of our protection and mitigation strategies.”

According to The Associated Press, most people with the coronavirus experience fever and cough for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority recover.