Task Force updates policies for repat flights and border protection
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The COVID-19 Task Force continues to discuss ways to improve processes for repatriation flights as well as implement new policies aimed at protecting American Samoa’s borders against the deadly COVID pandemic.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Task Force detailed its weekly meeting held on March 29, 2021 at the Homeland Security Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
For the third repatriation flight from Hawaii, which is scheduled to arrive on April 15th, some 220 travelers have been contacted thus far for pre-travel quarantine with a more firm count available upon intake at the Ohana Waikiki East Hotel in Hawaii. Repatriates confirmed for pre-travel quarantine will begin arriving this week with the first day of quarantine set for Good Friday, April 2nd.
With the Task Force expecting the biggest number of passengers in its third flight, it is also looking at utilizing not only the Tradewinds Hotel but also other quarantine sites such as the Fatuoaiga facility.
FLIGHTS FROM SAMOA AND OTHER AREAS
Fifteen residents of American Samoa who were repatriated from Apia on March 28th are currently in quarantine at the alternative care facility ACF #2 at the Tafuna Health Center.
Also quarantined were four personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who also arrived on March 28th to conduct annual navigational aid recertification. The group departed the next day (March 29) without exposure or incident.
Several other flight requests are still pending or recently submitted to the Task Force for approval.
They include a request from Samoa Airways to swap aircraft that’s here due to urgent unscheduled heavy mechanical maintenance required and a charter by Fletcher Construction to bring engineers to oversee the ASPA east-side village collection system.
All seaport and airport requests approved by the Task Force are subject to medical clearances as required by the Department of Health.
The Task Force has not finalized details of a repatriation flight from Tonga in the first or second week of April. It is also looking at a request for a repatriation flight from Fiji in the future.
Coordination for four travelers requiring dialysis treatments is being arranged with the US Renal Care Hemodialysis (HD) treatment for the April repatriation flight. This will allow the travelers to obtain the treatment they need while undergoing pre-travel quarantine at the hotel. Arrangements for dialysis during the American Samoa leg of quarantine are still being finalized.
This is the first repatriation flight bringing home dialysis patients. All four have confirmed to have completed their COVID-19 vaccinations.
SEAPORT COVID TEST CHARGE
In an effort to cover costs for testing as well as services provided at the seaport, the COVID-19 Task Force on Monday, Mar. 29th approved a recommendation from the Department of Health to assess a $150 fee for every COVID test it administers to non US citizens/ nationals at the seaport.
The latest records from the Department of Health (DOH) show that more than 50 percent of American Samoa’s older population has now completed full two-shot vaccinations for COVID-19. This is very positive news for the territory’s vaccination efforts because the risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.
As of March 30, 2021, 53.8% of the territory’s eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine while 41.7% has received their complete two-shot vaccinations. DOH data shows that 53.5% of the 41-50 age group, 54.9% of the 51-60 age group, and 58.8% of the 61 and older age group are now fully vaccinated with two-shots.
In addition to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccination, DOH received this past weekend their first shipment of Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccination of 600 doses. Compared to Pfizer and Moderna, the Janssen vaccine requires only one shot and the Task Force is looking at utilizing these doses for the repatriation flights or for individuals who have difficulty returning or acquiring the second shots of Pfizer and Moderna.
As of March 30, 2021, the territory has an inventory of 13,096 doses of all three vaccines and DOH continues to push out vaccination efforts every week in the hopes of getting all the 33,206 eligible population vaccinated. To get your COVID vaccination shot, please call 219 for DOH’s latest vaccination schedule.
SERVICE DOGS/ EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOGS
The Task Force is looking to discuss in its next meeting a request to allow service or emotional support dogs on repatriation flights.