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Gov Lolo appeared blindsided by early release of repatriation plan

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nu
Health director briefs cabinet on preliminary plan for stranded residents

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Health Department (DoH) has identified hotels for quarantine in Honolulu as well as medical partners to assist with COVID-19 testing for travelers if there is a repatriation flight to bring home American Samoa residents stranded off island.

This is according to Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua during the DoH’s presentation on its preliminary repatriation plan, presented at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said that such a plan should not have been presented at the meeting.

Lolo told Motusa that the proposed plan should have been presented first to the government COVID-19 Task Force for review. He instructed Motusa to thoroughly prepare this report to be presented first to the task force and review all issues pertaining to the plan before it’s presented to the governor next week.

“This plan shouldn’t have been presented to the public without being reviewed by the task force” which then presents it to the governor, Lolo told Motusa, who appeared to be in high spirits and excited giving his presentation.

So far the governor has yet to make a decision on a US repatriation flight.

During the presentation, Motusa said many residents have called regarding a repatriation flight from Hawaii and the US mainland. And DoH’s plan will be presented sometime next week to the task force chairman before submission to the governor and lieutenant governor.

He said it’s estimated that more than 400 local residents want to return home. Based on information DoH received, 80% of those residents traveled off island for medical reasons and most of then are seniors — 60 years and older.

However he said DoH has received word about an elderly female of about 80-years old that also went off island for medical reasons and wants to return home.

DoH’s plan would required a 10-day quarantine period in Hawaii with COVID-19 testing in Honolulu and the Pacific Health Officers Association (PIHOA) — a professional organization in which DoH is a member — will assist with making arrangements for testing with already identified medical doctors in Honolulu.

Motusa said PIHOA would also assist in identifying three hotels — with room capacity of up to 180-plus for quarantine of travelers before they board the flight to Pago Pago where upon arrival the travelers will undergo the local required 14-day quarantine.

And DoH is working on launching a medically certified website, by a Texas based firm, that allows the transfer of medical information between American Samoa and Hawaii for travelers wanting to travel on the repatriation flight. He said this service is needed because our local doctors are not medically licensed/ certified to practice in Hawaii. The website will also have a section on frequently asked questions to help travelers.

He explained that first priority for the repatriation is professional personnel, noting that DoH has three medical staff stranded off island. Priority two would be the stranded passengers who are local residents.

Samoa News reported earlier this week that the American Samoa Government now has its own online “repatriation registry” for American Samoa residents, “who wish to return home when the borders are re-opened.”

The ASG registry — — outlines required documents for consideration, when a person registers to return home. (See Samoa News edition Sept. 15th for details.)