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Two new “border” cases of COVID-19 from Sept. 27th HNL flight

 Dr. Aifili John Tufa
All now in isolation, including three ‘close-contact’ passengers

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — During an emergency news conference last night, Health Department officials announced two more positive COVID-19 cases. They are fully vaccinated local residents who returned to the territory of the Sept. 27th  Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu.

The two confirmed cases along with three “close contacts” — or passengers on that same flight are now in 14-day isolation.  And with these two new cases, American Samoa now has three confirmed imported (border) cases, including the one from the Sept. 13th flight.

However, the territory remains under the “Code Blue” health threat level, as of last night.

Earlier yesterday morning, during a separate news conference, DoH officials announced that the 232 passengers on the Sept. 27th flight are in 10-day quarantine —183 at Tradewinds Hotel and 49 at Sadies by the Sea hotel.These travelers first COVID-19 test was carried out yesterday morning.

At last night’s emergency news conference, DoH’s Clinical Service acting director Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao explained that one of the travelers, quarantined at Sadie's by the Sea hotel, tested COVID-19 positive and based on the test results it appears that the individual was recently infected with the virus before arriving in the territory.

Additionally, DoH identified two passengers who are “close-contacts” of the positive case at Sadie’s — as they traveled and roomed together.

The second traveler that tested positive was at the Tradewinds Hotel, said Dr. Lauvao, pointed out that this positive case also appears to have been recently infected with the virus before traveling to American Samoa. Additionally, DoH has identified a traveler who was in “close-contact” with this positive case.

She said the two positive cases and the three passengers, identified as “close-contact” have been all placed in isolation for 14-days at the ASG’s Alternate Care Facility in Tafuna, starting today, Friday, and will be closely monitored by health officials.

There was also another positive case — which DoH said is a “historical case” — at Tradewinds, but this one is not counted and not in isolation as this traveler had tested positive before for the virus.

So the “historical case” is not counted and not isolated but remains in the required 10-day quarantine, Dr. Lauvao emphasized.

According to DoH officials, all five travelers are doing well so far in isolation.

Responding to media questions, DoH officials reiterated that the two new cases were fully vaccinated before traveling to American Samoa, and all five now in isolation are local residents.

The territory’s lead epidemiologist,  Dr. Aifili John Tufa of DoH said the “good news” is that “we’re able to contain” the new cases and isolate them. And once again noted they are imported confirmed COVID-19 cases — one from the Sept. 13th flight from Honolulu and two on the Sept. 27th flight from Honolulu.

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua said that at the time of the news conference last night, American Samoa remains under “Code Blue” and that the COVID-19 Task Force and the medical community will meet soon to make a “policy” decision on whether or not to raise the health threat level to possibly the next level, “Code Yellow” — which means one-confirmed locally transmitted case (also known as a community transmitted case).

He emphasized that under current protocol, “we’re able to contain” the spread of the virus through quickly isolating the confirmed cases, and American Samoa remains under “Code Blue” — meaning no cases.

The next meeting of the task force is this coming Monday, unless there is a change made of when the panel will meet.

DoH officials urge the community to get vaccinated — if you have not done so — and wear masks out in public.

More information from last night’s news conference will be in Monday’s edition.