Plans to open borders announced at this week’s cabinet meeting
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a press release issued this week after the latest Cabinet meeting, Governor Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga stated that when the public is 95% fully vaccinated, the government will be able to open the borders.
The release announced that the borders would open around the August – September period, but only fully vaccinated passengers will be allowed to travel.
“For the safety of our people and others they will encounter when they travel, we must strive to achieve at least 80 – 95 % of the population to be vaccinated before travel is safe,” said the Government Appointed Representative (GAR) Lt. Governor Talauega E. Ale.
In a joint cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at the Election Office in Tafuna, the GAR told the Governor and cabinet members that changes are underway regarding quarantine and medical requirements for passengers who have been fully vaccinated.
“The Taskforce has decided that fully vaccinated passengers are no longer required to do health clearances before entering quarantine in Hawaii. However, they must take the COVID-19 test 72 hours before the flight.
“This is a further example of the Government safely and strategically moving into the next phase of its repatriation efforts. In the future, the Government hopes to allow fully vaccinated passengers to go home upon arrival instead of quarantine,” says the GAR.
The goal to bring citizens of American Samoa home has been at the forefront of this Administration since the commencement of its 100 days in Office. So far, three repatriating flights have safely brought home more than 600 locals. According to the GAR, more repatriation flights are being planned after the next one scheduled for May 15 to bring 270 passengers. Other scheduled repatriation flights are May 28, June 13, June 29, July 15, and the last flight on July 31, 2021.
“There are about 1000 names already cleared medically and submitted to the team in Hawaii who will be responsible for dividing up the passengers equally to accommodate the remaining repatriation flights. Passengers still left in the mainland after July 31 will pay their own fares when the borders open,” says the GAR.
The GAR also confirmed the appointment of the Director of DOH Motusa Tuileama Nua as head of the operation in Hawaii, assisted by Tulafono V. Su’a and Director of Medicaid Sandra King.
The GAR made a special mention of Director Nua, LBJ CEO HTC Faumuina J. Faumuina, Director Sandra King of Medicaid, and VA for their assistance in repatriating our people from the US mainland.
STARKIST EMPLOYMENT ISSUES
Governor Lemanu confirmed that StarKist will close for ten days this month due to a labor shortage, during the joint cabinet meeting.
The governor said the territory’s largest private employer faces a decline in employee numbers, especially at this time when taxes are filed, and refund and stimulus checks are issued — and it is impacting Starkist’s ability to keep up with global demand.
The Governor held a meeting with the management of StarKist on Monday, May 3, to discuss possible ways to remedy the situation and improve StarKist’s headcount.
The stimulus handouts, tax refunds, and other COVID-19 related funding assistance received by many in the territory has made some employees not turn up for work and are affecting many other businesses.
Only 60% of the population has been vaccinated and the government hopes that the number will increase to at least 95% — before the borders can be opened. It is anticipated that by the end of this month or early June, the FDA will approve mass vaccination of the Pfizer for everyone between the ages of 12-15 years old.
The Director of Human Resources, Lynn P. Alaimalo has told the governor, lt. governor and cabinet members that the Rollback process of Government employees salaries has been completed and plans are now being finalized to increase the salaries of all teachers in the territory.
The first round of the new stimulus funding assistance was distributed on Wed, May 5th.
According to Treasurer, Malemo Tausaga more than 30 million dollars worth of stimulus money will be distributed at different locations already planned to make it easier for our people. For people that do not have mailboxes, stimulus checks will be available at the Lee Auditorium. Stimulus money for StarKist employees will be distributed at the StarKist premises throughout the day.
ASCC is also distributing stimulus money to all its students under the Cares Act. This time not everyone will receive the same amount of money. According to the President of ASCC, Dr. Rosevon Pato, full-time students will receive $1000 plus and part-time students $600 plus stimulus money.
MANU’A FLAG DAY
The governor has instructed the cabinet to prepare for Manua’s Flag Day, which will occur on July 16, 2021. According to the governor, this is an important event, and preparations should start now for the event.
Important weeks ahead include:
1. 1. Public Works Week — May 16 - May 21, 2021
2. 2. Annual Nurses Week — May 05- May 12, 2021
3. 3. Police Week — May 9 - May 14, 2021