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Task force tightens security, extends quarantine days for travelers

Memebers of the COVID-19 task force
Number one goal is to prevent a community spread
compiled by Samoa News staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The COVID-19 Task Force acknowledged during their weekly meeting this past Monday that the high number of positive cases recently reported in quarantine have not only “tested the medical community’s response but also the travelers’ patience.” 

It also resulted in the Task Force increasing quarantine days for future Hawaii flights from 7 to 14, as well as security manpower at quarantine sites to make sure travelers abide by quarantine protocols.

As Samoa News reported earlier, the three separate tests of the Jan. 27 travelers yielded 39 positive cases – 33 travelers and six DOH staff members who were in quarantine to monitor the passengers. DOH Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa said a few DOH staffers several travelers have exhibited symptoms but otherwise all are doing fine. They are now in isolation while the rest of the 274 passengers are expected to undergo another round of testing and negative testers are expected to be released on Friday, Feb. 11.

Aside from the 39 positive cases, DOH determined that another 35 travelers who tested positive are historical cases or those who have had COVID-19, have recovered from it and are no longer considered infectious. However, it noted that a majority of these travelers did not disclose this information when they registered on American Samoa's online travel portal, TALOFAPASS – a big worry to health officials who are looking into the situation.

After questions from Department of Interior Field Representative Lydia Faleafine Nomura, Dr. Aifili explained that they have not seen a pattern in the positive cases. He said one traveler is testing positive while his/ her roommate tests negative. For historical cases, one could test negative in the first test, then positive in the 2nd and then negative again in the third test.

In the Task Force press release issued Wednesday, Dr. Aifili said he believes the variant infecting the travelers is Omicron. One of the main concerns and one of the reasons DOH extended the quarantine period for travelers is evidence that the highly mutated Omicron has the ability to evade immunity from vaccination and previous infection compared with other variants.

Further some of the drug treatments that worked for the Delta variant, such as the monoclonal antibodies, are less able to target Omicron due to its mutations. Dr. Aifili said DOH continues to investigate the positive cases, conduct contract tracing and perform additional tests as their number one goal is to prevent a community spread.

The report also noted that the additional days in quarantine resulted in some travelers lashing out at healthcare workers. Upon the announcement of the quarantine extension on a zoom call over the weekend, reports of profanities toward quarantine staff, individuals threatening to leave quarantine, and an incident of unidentified passengers pulling the hotel fire alarm were reported.

(Samoa News understands there was also an incident at one of the quarantine sites that happened after the zoom call notifying the travelers of the extended stay, where certain individuals attempted to leave. Luckily, they were stopped by security, as they tried.)

Members of the Task Force acknowledged how policies and requirements can be better communicated so as to alleviate frustrations and emotions among staff. For instance, GHC Reid Ltd & Company CEO Olivia Reid proposed that travelers be notified to expect a 14-day maximum quarantine requirement, and the significance of 14 days — so all are informed as to why the extensions are important to the Government’s current zero transmission goal. This was approved by the Task Force.

Task Force members recommended that the names of the unruly travelers and also those who fail to disclose their previous COVID-19 history on TALOFAPASS be referred to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

DOH further suggested to the Task Force that the costs of quarantine operations should be borne by travelers to discourage irresponsible behavior.

To minimize traffic and observe social distancing, Talauega made it clear that no DOH staff should have a table at the airport in Hawaii except for one ASG-HI Office employee to be present to assist Hawaiian Airlines with checking/tagging of the travelers’ luggage.

He said only travelers approved by Hawaiian Airlines and TALOPASS should be at the airport check-in and they should be communicating directly with Hawaiian Airlines for boarding, i.e. not additional ASG workers.

To alleviate financial burdens on a growing number of returning residents, the Task Force approved removing the 10-day pre-travel test requirement. Instead there will be only two tests, one conducted five days before flight and within 48 hours of flight. This policy will go into effect for the March flights. The Chair urged the medical community to further revisit the pre-travel requirements and find a solution to better assist travelers, while maintaining the safety of the quarantine operations.


As of Feb. 7, a total of 381 travelers have registered on TALOFAPASS. 377 have been processed by Immigration, with 359 of them approved. 339 have already gone through DOH processing and 330 were approved. The first swab test was held on Monday and were awaiting results. The second test is scheduled for Feb. 12 and the third test is on Feb. 15 and the 16th.

Negotiations are ongoing to add Sadie’s by the Sea Hotel again as another quarantine site, in time for the Feb. 17 flight. Additionally, a government quarantine site built in an airport hangar in Tafuna will be ready for the Feb. 17 flight also. It has 36 rooms. An official ceremony opening the hangar is slated for this Friday.

“I don’t foresee a change in the HA flights schedule. We will add Sadie’s as an additional quarantine site once negotiations are completed. Samoa flights are on hold for now and will be reviewed by the Taskforce for possible resumption next week,” stated the Task Force Chair.


The Task Force is suspending flights from Samoa this week and it will review possible resumption next week. Health Director Motusa Tuileama Nua said they have been communicating with health officials in Samoa who are looking at the possibility of implementing a quarantine period for travelers from American Samoa. He said this will be publicized once Samoa finalizes their updates in travel requirements.


As of Feb. 7, 2022, a total of 41,518 people eligible to get the COVID vaccine have received at least one dose. Of that number, 39,453 are fully vaccinated. For the entire population coverage, this means 83.5% have received one dose and 79.4% are now fully vaccinated.

For school vaccination coverage, total public and private enrollment is at 12,298. As of Feb 7th, 88.3% of school children (private and public) who are eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose while 82% are fully vaccinated.

DOH is looking at having another vaccination push at the schools on the week of Feb. 18th to get more children vaccinated. It is also promoting the booster shots as studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that boosters provide the best protection against the omicron variant. As of Feb. 7th, only 6,250 people or 17.3% have gotten booster shots.

(Sources: Task Force press release, Samoa News archives)