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American Samoa Repatriation Picks Up Five COVID-19 Cases

Pago Pago, American Samoa (CC BY-SA 4.0)

American Samoa’s repatriation system picked up five COVID-19 cases so far among the more than 160 residents in quarantine here in Honolulu. This is American Samoa’s first attempt to help residents get home since the pandemic closed its borders more than 10 months ago.  

Five American Samoan residents planning to return home at the end of the week have now been removed from quarantine at a Waik?k? hotel after testing positive for the coronavirus. Ginger Porter oversees repatriation efforts in Honolulu for the American Samoa COVID-19 Task Force.

"One thing I can confirm with you is that the process is working," says Porter, "That’s why we have quarantine in place so that we can have all of these tests done and so that we are not taking any of the positive home and then still offer them an opportunity to go home."

American Samoa’s borders have been closed since March, leaving more than 1,400 residents stranded and eager to return to their home in the South Pacific.

But to do so, returning residents must test negative for COVID-19 before and after a 10-day quarantine in Honolulu. And then upon arrival in Pago Pago, residents must quarantine again for 14 days and be virus free before rejoining their community.

"We do appreciate eveyrone’s patience for the process. We are anticipating a flight every month," says Porter, "If it takes seven flights to get everybody home, you know for the 1,400-1,500 people registered for repatriation, we will operate those flights."

As for the five American Samoan residents who tested positive for COVID-19 in Hawai?i, Porter says they will be able to return home on a future repatriation flight.

"It’s been very difficult for a lot of people. And it's it's time to go home," says Porter, "You know, there's no place like home. As beautiful as the world is, there is no place like the South Pacific."

If all goes as planned, the first repatriation flight to Pago Pago will depart Honolulu this Friday. 

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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