For Official Release

PR 002-02052021

Office of the Governor

Utulei, American Samoa

February 5, 2021

 

The Long Journey Home

American Samoa's first Repatriation Flight for stranded residents and citizens from Hawaii.

American Samoa COVID-19 Task Force says we are not out of the woods yet.

 

The first historical repatriation flight organized by the American Samoa Government, with the Covid19 Task Force's leadership, arrived safely Monday afternoon, February 1, 2021, from Honolulu, Hawaii. A total of 159 returning residents were safely transported to the local quarantine area, while 214 passengers departed. 

 

The border closures that began in March of 2020 have kept many of our citizens stranded off-island. Governor Lemanu intended to start bringing these stranded residents back home to their families since his transition into Office. It was an emotional homecoming for all families affected; emotionally, mentally, and physically, and for the loved ones they left behind, who were anxiously awaiting their arrival. 

 

"Protecting American Samoan's from Covid is our number one priority. The travelers will now spend 14 days in quarantine and will undergo testing to ensure that no one was exposed during the transit from White Sands through TSA in Honolulu, until touching down in Pago Pago," stated the COVID-19 Task Force Governor Authorized Representative (GAR) Lt. Governor Talauega, when asked to follow up on the Governor’s press conference on the first repatriation flight held on February 5th, 2021.

 

The GAR continues, "However, we are not out of the woods yet." As he refers to, the first set of negative tests does not warrant any premature decisions. "We need to stay vigilant. American Samoa as a whole needs to continue educating ourselves on COVID-19. Prepare yourselves for life after exposure and get vaccinated. We are fortunate that American Samoa has had tremendous support from the community, private sector, and the Administration, and their great display of patriotism humbles me. LOTONUU is alive and well here in American Samoa. Especially during this Long Journey Home for our repatriated travelers."

 

The Emergency Declaration for the Territory has been amended to make wearing a mask mandatory in public places, encourages social distancing, and promote receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, which will hopefully keep American Samoa prepared if there is a positive case. As a country, all communities must work together to enforce and police the implementation of the Declaration.  

 

Shortly after the repatriation press conference Governor Lemanu spoke about repatriation. "I want to thank everyone who has given so much already and continues to give unconditionally. From the Governor of Hawaii and Mayor of Honolulu, your willingness to show the true spirit of Ohana has given American Samoa a chance to bring home Her people after being stranded in the US for 11 months. The assistance that Nikolao Pula and Lydia Faleafine-Nomura with the USDOI Office of Insular Affairs displays time and again your dedication to duty that American Samoa appreciates in times like this. To all the travelers and your loved ones. Thank you for the patience and support. Also to the American Samoa COVID-19 Task Force and Emergency First Responders. Your display of unwavering courage on the frontlines while keeping the travelers safe is unmatched."

He continued, "You can also drop off goods to your loved ones in quarantine daily between the hours of 2-5. I hope this will increase morale and allow you to give your loved ones a taste of home that they have sorely missed."

 

Governor Lemanu and Lt. Governor Talauega remain hopeful that this will not be the last repatriation flight this year. But their goal now is, once this flight is complete, to make adjustments to improve the efficiency of the repatriation process, utilize data collected to assist in better decision making and be able to bring more of our people home as soon as possible.