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Gov directs preparations for resuming Hawaiian Air flights July 1

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“We must have precise policy … and the policy must be very clear”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — To ensure that American Samoa has set-policy when borders are re-opened for flights in and out Pago Pago, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has instructed certain members of the COVID-19 task force to start drafting specific policy that includes among other things, which travelers are to be quarantined upon arrival on island.

The governor gave his verbal instructions at Sunday’s task force meeting after announcing the coronavirus Fifth Amended Emergency Declaration extending most restrictions until July 1st — which is also the date Hawaiian Airlines flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago will resume.

According to the governor, the task force’s small committee appointed last month will start this week, “drafting a policy” that will be used by the government when American Samoa’s borders are re-opened.

Committee members are acting Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Ta’ase, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua, LBJ Medical Center chief executive officer Faumuina John Faumuina, task force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira and the governor’s chief of staff, Fiu J. Saelua.

The governor points out that all suggestions that have been made by the Health Department on what’s needed when borders are re-opened should be included in the discussions for setting such a policy.

Among the suggestions by DoH, which have been raised in past task force meeting, is designating a site at the village level to quarantine a person suspected of being infected until such a time as DoH medical personnel can reach that person for the necessary medical check up.

The governor suggested that the committee come up with a set policy on what should be done if a traveler is determined to be in need of quarantine; how DoH should determine if an individual should be quarantined at a government facility and who should be home quarantined.

And such a policy should also outline what a traveler should do before traveling here, he pointed out.

(When the borders were open there were many public complaints about travelers seen in public instead of being home-quarantined. There were also complaints of certain people — who are relatives of ASG officials — out in public after being designated to either home quarantine or quarantine at an ASG facility.)

According to the governor, these issues should be addressed as there has been confusion in the past due to unclear policy and actions taken by DoH were not based on set policy but based on what a person believes.

“When are borders are re-opened we must have precise policy because it affects airlines, and the public and the policy must be very clear,” he said.

He also said that a team — which includes representatives of DoH and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency representative assigned to American Samoa will work with the Department of Public Works to carry out inspections of ASG quarantine facilities which must be furnished.

Prior to the inspections, which the governor said should be carried out on the third Thursday of June — DoH should identify what should be inside these facilities including the new facility currently being constructed behind the Tafuna Community Health Center.

From there, the list of identified items is to be given to DPW and the Procurement Office to find those things, he said. And if beds are needed find them, if unable to do so, built these needed beds, as Samoans have done in the past.

During its presentation at the task force meeting, DoH data showed a total of 240 beds at the identified quarantine facilities. And this includes 40 beds at Fatuoaiga, 40 cots at Veterans Affairs building at the Tafuna Industrial Park, 60 cots at Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs building in Pago Pago, 20 beds for the yet to be completed Tafuna Alternate Care Facility (behind Tafuna Health Center) and 20 cots at the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) center in Pago Pago.

DoH also identified Sadie’s by the Sea hotel as an alternate quarantine facility providing 80 beds.

According to DoH, one of the issues surrounding the DYWA site is its lacks air conditioning, which is the same issue found at public high school gyms if they are to be used as quarantine facilities.

With the limited amount of beds at identified quarantine facilities, DoH recommended for consideration having just one Hawaiian Airlines  flight per month or one flight every 20 days as each flight has between 200 to 270 passengers.

Other DoH recommendations include screening/testing travelers prior to bordering the flight out of Honolulu.

Provisions of the Fifth Amended Emergency Declaration state that all travelers must provide negative COVID-19 test results within 72 hours before arrival. Additionally, all non-medical personnel entering American Samoa are subject to “full quarantine of 14-days.”

It also says that all returning medical referral patients will be subject to screening and quarantine at the discretion of DoH physicians but guided by clearly established criteria to determine who is to be fully quarantined and when the person is to be released from quarantine.

For COVID-19 related workers, quarantines will not be imposed, it says.