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Gov’t explores uplifting college students, military recruits to Hawaii

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Number one concern is exposure to the virus by going off island

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — At Sunday’s government coronavirus task force meeting, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga revealed plans for a Hawaiian Airlines charter flight to take local scholarship students heading to the US for colleges and universities as well as students heading into the US military.

The governor, however, remained concerned over the health and safety of local students being exposed to the virus as the number of confirmed cases in the US — including Hawaii — continues to increase.

With flights to and from Honolulu currently suspended until Aug. 1st and the Fall Semester only weeks away, scholarship students and their parents are looking at whether they will be able to depart the territory to pursue their higher education.

This is the same with students, who have already taken the Oath of Office to join the military, and includes a group who took the oath some time in March this year to join the US Army, but have been unable to leave due to the flight suspension between Honolulu and Pago Pago.

At the task force meeting, the governor said there are pending questions from students slated to attend colleges overseas as well as those going into the military about how they will be able to depart the territory since flights remain suspended.

Local Homeland Security Department director Alfonso Pete Galea’i pointed out the Emergency Operations Center has received about 120 such requests from students, military recruits and others wanting to “exit” the territory to Hawaii.

Lolo responded that Hawaiian Airlines is working on a plan for a possible charter flight and that the task force along with its working groups are exploring all possible avenues to uplift students and military recruits to Honolulu.

However, the governor said the most important issue is whether or not parents want their children exposed to the virus off island. Lolo reiterated his concern over the safety of local students being exposed to the deadly virus — after coming from American Samoa where there are no confirmed cases.

Lolo directed Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga to discuss with students and their parents, as well as students heading to the military the status of the virus off island and whether students want to be exposed to this situation.

He said the government will do all it can to help these students realize their dreams by attending school and military off island — if that’s want they and their parents want.

Dr. Matagi-Tofiga said that many institutions in California are planning to begin the Fall semester with online courses and recommendations have been given to scholarship students and their parents, that if this is the case, maybe students can begin their studies from here.

But the “number one concern from us, relayed to parents is resurgence of [COVID-19] cases. Do you want to expose your son or daughter?” she said of the questions being posed to parents.

According to the director, the department will continue to discuss this important matter with parents.