American Samoa residents stranded by virus to stop in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Hawaii is assisting about 800 residents of American Samoa traveling through Oahu to their island home, which was cut off by the coronavirus.

The U.S. territory in the Pacific, located 2,200 miles (3,541 kilometers) south of Hawaii, closed its borders March 13 to protect the islands from COVID-19.

The order by American Samoa Democratic Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, which was extended in July, stranded residents who were in Hawaii and other states.

Those travelers can now return home, but must first stop in Hawaii to undergo COVID-19 screening.

Repatriation flights will help ensure residents get home safely while preserving the territory’s efforts to keep out COVID-19, the state said.

The state and the City and County of Honolulu plan to assist the travelers, who are expected to quarantine for 10 days at the White Sands Hotel in Waikiki before departure.

Honolulu planned to use a section of the parking lot at the Waikiki Shell outdoor concert venue for coronavirus screening. Testing was scheduled for Monday and again on Feb. 7 and Feb. 22.

Officials said the parking lot section would not be available for public use during testing. Additional restrictions could be implemented if the need arises, the city said.

The city issued a statement thanking residents for patience and understanding while public facilities are used to help the American Samoa residents in their return home.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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