Keeping borders closed best prevention for COVID-19

Chief Medical Officer of the LBJ Hospital Dr Iotamo Saleapaga told a hearing of the House Health Committee yesterday that the territory’s best weapon against the deadly COVID-19 is prevention.

He added that keeping the territory’s borders closed is the best prevention and the only reason why the territory doesn’t have a confirmed case.

Dr Salepaga referred to the criticism and rude comments directed at the Governor and the Task Force by people in Hawaii and the mainland wanting to come home, but he said allowing flights from Hawaii at this time will be a sure way for the virus to enter the territory.

He alerted House representatives about the rise in cases of coronavirus in Hawaii and California.

According to his testimony, the reopening of flights from Hawaii will depend on whether there’s an improvement in the number of coronavirus cases in the aloha state by the time the current emergency declaration for COVID-19 ends on June 30th.

Dr. Saleapaga said people from American Samoa who are stranded in Hawaii and the mainland should be patient and understand that it’s not safe to resume flights at this time. They should also be reminded that they have the best hospitals in the states to go to if they catch the virus.

He said protecting the lives of our people in the territory is the main priority and that means preventing the virus from spreading to the territory.

Dr Saleapaga who attended the Health Committee hearing with Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua, Epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa and head of the LBJ Lad Division Dr. Gonzales, said DoD and LBJ Hospital have prepared facilities to take care of coronavirus patients, but their goal is not to get to that stage.

If flights from Hawaii do resume, the plan is to have everyone tested for Coronavirus 72 hours before they travel here. And upon arrival everyone will be quarantined at designated centers…there will be no home quarantine according to Dr. Saleapaga, “it’s a waste of time.”

During the 14-day quarantine, the travelers will be COVID tested again and if they are clear they will be released.

There will be social distancing on the plane from Hawaii so the passenger load will not be at full capacity.

The schedule for the Hawaii flights would be one every 17 days which would allow the full 14-day quarantine, then disinfect the facilities, then allow attending personnel to rest and recuperate before another flight.

The actual date to resume flights from Hawaii is dependent on whether cases of coronavirus in the state go down.

Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua gave an update on the repatriation flights from Samoa, now scheduled to begin next Monday.

There will be two flights per day, Monday to Friday next week. The total number of people to be returned from Samos is 206. Motusa said at this stage it’s not known if the return flights to Samoa will take Samoan citizens who are stranded here.