Gov: Mr. President, American Samoa is doing its part — where are you?
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has shared his disappointment with US President Donald Trump over the failure of the federal government to coordinate a flight to uplift US citizens stranded in Samoa, which closed its borders; and routing the Americans through American Samoa, which don’t have quarantine facilities.
Lolo also registered his disappointment over the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) failure to provide test-kits so the COVID-19 testing can be done locally instead of samples sent off to Hawai’i, Atlanta or Guam.
“During this time of crisis, American Samoa has made tremendous sacrifice by exposing its residents to the spread of the COVID-19 when it was asked to help Americans who were in distress,” Lolo wrote in a Mar. 25th letter to the President.
When all Pacific countries turned their backs to 749 Americans on the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship that was running out of fuel and would not have reached Hawaii, “American Samoa came to its rescue because I would not forsake my fellow Americans in spite of the danger to our people,” he points out.
Additionally, the US State Department’s failure to make arrangements to evacuate Americans stranded in Samoa, “compelled me once more to sacrifice the lives of Americans living in American Samoa by allowing stranded US citizens to travel to American Samoa” on Mar. 24th to catch last night’s Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu.
“We don’t have quarantine facilities except for a makeshift 12 room temporary structure as we were frantically trying to build additional quarantine facilities,” the governor said. “We cannot conduct tests because CDC disqualified American Samoa, claiming lack of a certified lab facility.”
“My disappointment lies in the failure of CDC to provide an alternative testing tool so we can determine our level of coronavirus infection. We could not test the Americans who came over from Samoa,” he said, noting that American Samoa was left scrambling to find alternative quarantine sites.
Lolo said he had petitioned the US Embassy in Samoa to wait until Mar. 26, yesterday, to bring the stranded Americans from Apia to Pago Pago “to limit the ground time before their departure” on Hawaiian.
He explained that Samoa’s decision to totally shutdown their country forced the evacuation of Americans to Pago Pago “increasing the potential level of exposure of our people to the coronavirus.”
“Mr. President, American Samoa is making monumental sacrifices to save our Americans in distress and in harms way,” he said. (See Monday’s edition for more COVID-19 matters cited in the governor’s letter.)
The governor’s letter didn’t say how many Americans were evacuated from Samoa, but information included in his Second Amended Emergency Declaration issued Wednesday, gave an estimated count of close to 100 Americans.
ASG officials say the Americans are staying at two local hotels and the US State Department is footing the bill.