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ASG continues to prepare for possible COVID outbreak in the territory

Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale
The biggest challenge is sufficient medical personnel

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Lemanu Administration has put out a call to all physicians in the territory to join the medical team by responding and supporting current efforts to protect local borders from the COVID-19 pandemic, Acting Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale said during a news conference last week.

Among the questions raised with the acting governor, who is also chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force, is local readiness and what procedures are in place to response to one case of COVID-19 or an outbreak — as seen in other places around the world — especially those with huge populations of elderly residents.

“We have procedures in place. We continually run our test with LBJ on their readiness. The supplies are in place, not just the ventilators but medicine to treat the symptoms of COVID,” was Talauega’s response.  “Those we’ll continue to monitor and make sure that doctors and nurses are ready.”

He also said that part of what the Administration is submitting through the proposed $12.7 million supplement budget is to “provide financial assistance so that we make sure the doctors and nurses are compensated for their time, especially overtime. And we all know the shortage in terms of our medical personnel. And so it’s key that we have, those folks ready to answer the call.”

Talauega said “we are challenged right now” trying to bring in medical personnel due to the situation with border closure and the “usual places were we look to hire” such as Fiji and the Philippines — “they’re all basically locked down at this point.”

“And so we have an unusual problem here, a limited number of medical personnel,” he said. “The Governor and I have made a call to all medical doctors who are on island to come in and be part of the team.”

He said the team has retained at least one doctor who responded to the call, to help out with quarantine and repatriation program. “And then we’re bringing in some other doctors, the personnel that we have in Manu’a to stand ready for the potential that there is a positive case,” he said.

So far American Samoa is one of the few places on the planet without a locally-community transmitted case of COVID-19, and the Lemanu Administration has been working to ensure that continues even through the next phase of the repatriation program, when commercial flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago resume on a limited basis.