DoH: Stranded residents must be able “to endure up to 24-days” of quarantine in order to travel home
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Health Department physicians will assess the ability of travelers who submit an application for repatriation from the US “to endure up to 24-days” of quarantine including pre-boarding quarantine at a designated hotel in Hawai’i.
This is according to DoH’s response email message to American Samoa residents — stranded in the US — who register with the American Samoa Repatriation Program Online Registration portal to return home.
Two local residents, stranded off island, shared with Samoa News the response they received back from DoH, after applying online, which according to health officials, is the first-phase, with the traveler submitting a completed application.
According to DoH, all applicants — who successfully submitted a completed application — will be referred to the Attorney General's Office to confirm that the traveler is a legal resident of American Samoa, or US citizen.
Further, “All applications will be reviewed by a team of Department of Health Physicians to assess your ability to endure up to 24 days of quarantine —10 days of pre-board quarantine in Hawaii and 14 days of quarantine in American Samoa — and up to 5 hours of flight time to American Samoa,” DoH tells the applicants, who were also told to allow two weeks for this process to be completed.
HEALTH ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION
The DoH response to travelers, who submitted applications for the repatriation program, states that there are specific health issues for consideration for travelers wanting to return home.
One consideration that disqualifies travelers from participation in the Repatriation Quarantine Program at this time is “due to strict risk-mitigation, pre-travel Quarantine measures in place to safeguard the entire Repatriation Travel Group.”
As such, “any patient requiring on-going medical treatment outside of the Quarantine Hotel site during the pre-travel Quarantine period” does not qualify to participate.
DoH offered as example of a “non-qualifying” patient is one requiring “urgent care or emergency room referral, renal dialysis, cancer treatment, IV therapy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy etc.”
According to DoH, such patients “can not be safely accommodated” by the program.
The second health issue consideration is that “travelers are expected to be fully self-sufficient in a hotel room setting,” said DoH noting that Repatriation Quarantine staff do not provide medical services, nor do they provide home care services.
As such, travelers requiring the support of medical equipment, devices or supplies — e.g. portable oxygen support, CPAP, BiPAP, nebulizer unit, suction unit, spirometer, glucometer, pulse oximeter, insulin injectables, implantable devices, medicated patches, wound or ostomy care supplies — must provide their own medical equipment, devices and necessary supplies for 30 days, explains DoH.
Additionally, Quarantine staff is not allowed in travelers' rooms unless it is a medical emergency. All home health care must be fully managed by the patient and/ or his/her home care attendant for up to 25 days.
DoH also explained that terminally-ill / Hospice patients who wish to return home may submit an application for review by the AS-DOH medical committee on a case-by-case basis.
DoH will provide more information to the traveler once the applicant moves to Phase 2 of the online process.
If an application is approved, DoH said an email will then be sent to the applicant for instructions for Phase 2 of the Online Registration process. Additionally, all applications will be reviewed based on a "first come first serve" basis.
STILL NO FIRM DATE FOR REPATRIATION FLIGHTS
There’s no mention or hint in the DoH reply as to when ASG plans to start repatriation flights — an issue that stranded residents keep raising on social media postings, with many of them very critical of the Lolo Administration.
Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga said in a Jan. 3, 2021 letter to Tagata Tutu Fa’atasi Alliance of American Samoa (TTFAAS) president, Eileen Tyrell that the repatriation process should begin soon.
Lemanu appears to be responding to Tyrell’s congratulatory communication to the new incoming administration, which was sworn into office on Sunday. The Alliance is the group that is behind push — since last year — for repatriation flights from the US to American Samoa.
In his letter — which the Alliance posted early this week on its Facebook page while its members shared it with others here — Lemanu said, “I certainly emphasize with your daily struggles of being distant from loved ones.”
“We recognize the value of your offer to build relationships especially in compliance with the scientific advise on safety measures,” he wrote to Tyrell. “Moreover, we will continue to work closely with our medical team on island to ensure your safety and the protection of our people as we begin repatriation soon.”
Samoa News understands that the repatriation process as well as the current COVID-19 vaccine was among the virus issues covered during a DoH briefing of the new leaders on Monday.
The vaccine and its side effects were covered in the briefing — similar to the one that was conducted for the last Lolo Administration cabinet meeting several weeks ago — and what’s involved in the repatriation process as well as the estimated cost for repatriation both here and during the pre-boarding quarantine in Hawaii.
Following the briefing, it was agreed that there will be continued briefings and meetings on a weekly basis.
Officials with the previous Lolo Administration had told Samoa News that the estimated total cost of a 10-day quarantine in Honolulu for residents to be repatriated is around $2 million, but the numbers still needed to be further verified.