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LBJ puts its first COVID-19 testing machine online

LBJ hospital sign
A second machine — this one brand new — follows shortly

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With an operational COVID-19 testing machine now online, the LBJ Medical Center is able to conduct virus testing with just over 200 samples already tested and all coming back negative, said hospital chief executive officer Faumuina John Faumuina at Monday’s cabinet meeting.

Overall, as of Monday morning, more than 1,500 samples have been tested and all are negative; therefore American Samoa remains the only jurisdiction — state or territory — without a confirmed case of the coronavirus and closure of the borders has been cited by ASG officials as the reason for this achievement.

At Monday’s cabinet meeting, Faumuina gave a brief update saying that LBJ is now able to conduct sample testing, using a second-hand ABI700 model — that was obtained on an emergency basis at a lower cost than a new one.

After the machine was re-calibrated, testing was carried out for 214 samples, which all came back negative. Then last Friday, another 10 samples were tested, which also came back negative.

Faumuina explained that the hospital has already ordered a new machine, which is now on island and awaiting last of the parts to arrive this Friday, and followed by the machine being re-calibrated and tested.

Once it’s up and running LBJ will have two machines to carry out virus testing, said Faumuina.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga asked if the 10 tested last Friday included him, to which Faumuina said yes, and that the governor has been tested twice — and both times, the results were negative.

During the Health Department’s COVID-19 virus presentation update at the cabinet meeting, DoH Epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa said it’s “really great news” that LBJ has their machine up and operational.  And a lot more tests will be coming from LBJ moving forward, he added.

After giving an update on the global COVID-19 outlook — which included the U.S, and especially Hawaii — where the number of cases have surpassed the 5,000 mark as of Monday morning, Dr. Tufa also gave a brief update on the situation in American Samoa.

Samples collected up to Monday morning totaled 1,527 and they all came back negative for coronavirus, he said, and noted that the question being asked a lot is, “Do we have enough test [kits]?”

“The  answer is — at this point we have enough tests to maintain the process that we’re doing right now — testing people coming into the territory, especially at our seaport and airport. Also very important for us is to have a good number of test kits in the event that we have a [confirmed] case,” he said, “and we have to do a lot of contact tracing [and then] the bulk of the tests would be used to be able to track and contain the spread of the virus.”

As of Monday morning DoH has 7,061 test kits on hand for its two testing machines.

The DoH presentation at the meeting showed that 553 samples tested came from the community, which included first-responders.


It was also at the cabinet meeting that the governor announced that yesterday, Wednesday, was to be the last flight from Samoa bringing in skilled and technical workers under a special provision for skilled workers.  

After that flight, Lolo said borders with Samoa would be closed again, as the independent state is also looking to do the same with New Zealand, where there is a sudden spike in new coronavirus cases.

He said that no one else was to travel on the last flight except for skilled workers who were authorized to enter the territory.