Iulogologo signals there may be a delay in resuming HAL flights
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “The controlling factor” in re-opening air service between Hawaii and American Samoa “will be the saturation of quarantine facilities” in the territory, declared Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, chairman of the ASG coronavirus task force, responding to Samoa News inquiries.
At a previous task force meeting late last month, the Health Department recommended that if the borders are re-opened for Hawaiian Airlines flights — it should be for one flight every 14-days or every 20 days due to the current limitation of quarantine facilities as well as the limited number of COVID-19 test kits.
Hawaiian flights are suspended until June 30th and new questions have surfaced as to whether social distancing will be observed on the Honolulu-Pago Pago route if flights are to resume, as concerns have come up over the continued increase in the number of cases in Hawaii and the US mainland.
News outlets in Honolulu quote Hawaii health officials talking about new confirmed cases last week Tuesday and Thursday, while The Associated Press reports over the weekend a drastic increase in new cases at several states, including California, which have started to roll-back COVID-19 restrictions.
Asked about a proposed plan by the task force on how many flights a week between Honolulu and Pago Pago there will be if the governor decides to resume flights on July 1st, Iulogologo told Samoa News that the “controlling factor will be the saturation of quarantine facilities.”
He points out that Hawaiian Airlines usually carries 270 passengers and given “social distancing requirements we don't [know] if the number of passengers will be reduced.”
“At this juncture we only have 160 quarantine beds, so one flight alone will overwhelm our quarantine beds,” said Iulogologo. “So if the Governor decides to open our borders, it makes sense for us given our quarantine limitations to stagger the flights in a manner that will not overwhelm our quarantine facilities. We also need to assess the number of test-kits available to test everyone coming down.”
Meanwhile, some local residents don’t agree with re-opening flights on the Honolulu-Pago Pago route at this time as the number of COVID-19 cases in the US continues to increase.
Early last week during the Senate session, Sen. Satele Galu Satele Sr. suggested that the governor not resume flights, pointing to reports of still high numbers of cases in the US, saying he wants to keep borders closed beyond July 1st.
“Senator Satele's counsel is merited given the unstable status of Hawaii's coronavirus status. We certainly appreciate the support from the Senator and his astuteness over the current situation,” was Iulogologo’s response when asked for reaction to the senator’s remarks.
Iulogologo, who is also the governor’s executive assistant, points out that “the situation in the US mainland and Hawaii is trending upward and new revised projections estimate a greater number of deaths. So I value the suggestion by Senator Satele and his support for the Governor's commitment not to have one life lost because of this deadly disease.”
As previously reported by Samoa News there are local residents stuck in Hawaii and the US mainland calling for re-opening of the border or even an evacuation flight to bring them back home, similar to the governor’s repatriation plan for local residents stuck in Samoa since the borders were closed.
Samoa News points out that in a survey posted on samoanews.com, 61% of respondents either want American Samoa’s Covid-19 restrictions to remain unchanged or to only ease the stay at home rules. Only 31% think American Samoa should follow the lead of Samoa and begin easing all restrictions, including opening the borders to some travel.