American Samoa reported its first coronavirus case, 18 months into the pandemic, after a traveler tested positive after flying to the U.S. territory from Hawaii.
The positive case was discovered during a quarantine period required upon arrival in American Samoa. The traveler was fully vaccinated, according to a news release published Friday by American Samoa’s Department of Homeland Security, and the positive result was confirmed by the Health Department Thursday. Officials say the individual tested negative before traveling. The traveler was asymptomatic when tested, according to the news release, and will continue to be monitored.
“The discovery of this positive case during quarantine highlights the importance of why our process is critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Lemanu Mauga (D) said in a statement. “It further highlights the importance of maintaining our current quarantine protocols.” Mauga was among the passengers on the Monday flight from Hawaii and is in quarantine, according to the Associated Press.
Gabor Kelen, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, told The Washington Post it was surprising that American Samoa was able to evade the coronavirus as long as it did. The “covid zero” approach, in which countries such as Australia mandated lockdowns, hotel quarantines and other measures to stamp out transmission, probably is not possible in the long term, he said.
“Can any nation, entity, territory, forever and ever evade coronavirus? I think that answer is almost for sure no,” Kelen said. Noting that Australia has had outbreaks despite its early success, he added, “Think of it almost like a pressure cooker. As soon as you release the valve just a little, it’s over.”
In a news conference on Friday, American Samoa Health Department epidemiologist Aifili John Tufa said the traveler had tested negative before flying back home. He said it’s possible the traveler was “exposed at any time traveling from the mainland, and the time that they were in Hawaii.”
“It’s very hard for us to pinpoint exactly where the exposure happened at this point,” he said. “But we know for sure that the processes we have in place are working. This passenger, their positive result was caught in quarantine.” Officials said the person was moved to isolation.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SACBEE.COM
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