No quarantine for most fully vaccinated travelers on 5th repat flight
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The fifth repatriation flight is still scheduled to depart on June 1st from Hawaii with plans for immediate discharge of ALL fully vaccinated travelers to their families following swab test results, according to a statement from the COVID-19 Task Force this week.
Individual travelers who are partially vaccinated (one shot) or unvaccinated (no shots) or that are traveling with mixed family units (vaccinated/ unvaccinated) will report directly to quarantine sites upon arrival for the remaining week as per previous protocol.
The Task Force approved dates for the coming months before the discontinuation of the repatriation program unless otherwise re-scheduled are as follows:
Tuesday June 19
Saturday July 10
Thursday July 29
The Task Force continues to discuss its mitigation strategy ahead of the discontinuation of the repatriation program and the turnover of flights to its commercial schedule with Hawaiian Airlines in August.
Preliminary discussions have begun regarding the opening of borders (travel bubble) between American Samoa and Independent State of Samoa –– both of which have remained free of COVID-19 and are low-risk.
COVID VACCINATIONS IN VILLAGES BEGIN THIS SATURDAY
In a second media release, Homeland Security announced that the COVID Task Force, led by the Department of Health, will make its way into the villages this Saturday to vaccinate those who have not gotten a COVID shot or have missed their second dose.
The plan is to start from the outer villages, which have been shown on an American Samoa COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage by Village map to have lower vaccination rates suggesting potential transportation or accessibility barriers. For the next two months, the vaccination campaign will take place every Saturday and make its way into the more densely populated areas of the island.
At the latest meeting of the Task Force on Monday, May 24, 2021, DOH epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa said this Saturday’s (May 29th) vaccination program will take place at the Amanave Church Hall on the west side and Fagaitua High School on the east side. There will be clearly marked buses for the east side that will go out to nearby villages to bring residents needed to get the shot. Village mayors of these areas have met with health officials and they will be informing villagers about Saturday’s vaccination campaign.
The tentative schedule for Saturday vaccination program will continue for each subsequent Saturday:
June 5 Leone High School and Aua Stake Center;
June 12 Leone Catholic Church Hall and DYWA Pago Gym;
June 19 Pavaia’i Ward Chapel and Lee Auditorium;
June 26 ASCC Multipurpose Building and Nuuuli Methodist Church Hall;
July 3 Manumalo School Gym and Nuuuli Voc-Tech School Gym; and
July 10 Vaitogi EFKAS Hall and DYWA Tafuna Gym.
Both Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, and the Chairman of the Task Force Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale have encouraged DOH and the vaccination working group involved in the Saturday schedule to finalize their plans and look at innovative measures such as those in states across the US that have been successful in incentivizing vaccinations and that have experienced significant increases to their vaccination efforts.
Such measures could include multi-media awareness campaigns, providing transportation support, planning family-oriented activities, raffles, and other innovative strategies to boost vaccination rates. Citing the $6.8 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the distribution and administration of vaccines territory-wide, the Governor’s Authorized Representative said the Task Force should tap into this funding and comprehensively plan for the village vaccinations.
VACCINATION OF 12-15 YR OLDS
DOH will start accepting this week the vaccination of children ages 12 to 15 at the well baby clinics in Fagaalu, Tafuna, and Leone. This group will also be eligible for vaccination at the village vaccination drives starting this Saturday May 29 at Amanave Hall in the West and Fagaitua High School on the East.
Dr. Tufa said they want to make sure parents come to the clinics and selected sites, give their consent for the shots for their kids and also be there when the children are waiting during their monitoring period.
Please follow the AS Department of Health Facebook page for updates or call 219 for any specific questions and inquiries.
The latest data reported from DOH at the Task Force shows that 22,705 or 61.5% of the people eligible to get the vaccine has had at least one shot. 54.3% of them are now fully vaccinated. Based on the 2020 US Census, the territory’s total population (those eligible to get vaccinated and those not eligible) is 47,392. This means only less than half of the territory’s entire population – 47.9% – has had a least one shot. Of that, 42.3% are now fully vaccinated.
30% of the population has not gotten their first shot and it is this group that the Task Force is going after. DOH has worked on a colorful vaccination coverage map for American Samoa. With the help of the Office of Samoan Affairs, they hope to increase vaccination coverage in the villages and make the American Samoa map turn light blue or dark blue. Light blue is the color code indicating that a particular village has had 65-79% of its villagers vaccinated for COVID while dark blue means at least 80% of villagers are vaccinated; both are good percentages for achieving herd immunity.
As of May 23, 2021, the American Samoa map is mostly light green and dark green in color, meaning a 35-49% and 50-64% in vaccination coverage, respectively. A few villages farther east and west are colored orange which indicates that their vaccination coverage is only between 20% to 34% - the lowest standing now on the map.
Dr. Tufa says after the two-month village drive, they will get together with the Office of Samoan Affairs to find out how the vaccination strategy worked.
DAMAGE PROPERTY REPORTED FROM QUARANTINE SITES
Task Force members were saddened to get a briefing during their meeting that a few rooms at the Tradewinds Hotel and at the Fatuoaiga quarantine site were reported to have been damaged by travelers who came on the 4th repatriation flight.
Damage reports include broken chairs, broken toilet seat and unsanitary items left in showers and rooms as well as damaged screens, louvers and clogged sinks.
Members expressed disappointment concerning these few travelers who are making other travelers as well as the repatriation efforts look bad. To address this, the Task Force is working with quarantine sites to identify the culprits so that they can be held accountable for the damages. Furthermore, the names of travelers who occupied the damaged rooms will be submitted to the Attorney General for appropriate legal action.