As pandemic drags on, hundreds of American Samoans still stranded in Hawaii

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Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 at 5:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - American Samoa has been COVID-free since sealing its borders in March. But that action has left more than 200 American Samoans stranded in Hawaii.

Brigitte Moala and her 85-year-old father, Noaese Taeatafa, have been away from home since December when he had heart surgery in California.

They’ve been staying with family on Oahu since June.

“Mentally I feel like losing it every day not being able to be home for my kids," Moala said. “My husband, he’s trying his best to take care of the kids and take care of everything back home.”

“I’m very very depressed," added Taeatafa. “Iʻm not happy because I want to go back home.”

Moala says her father’s health has been declining since the travel ban.

And her children are struggling during her absence.

She has two boys. Her youngest, who’s 11, is taking it the hardest.

“He’s heartbroken. He doesn’t understand. He’s mad. He’s angry,” said Moala.

The AP reports American Samoa’s governor is reviewing a petition demanding repatriation.

During Hawaii’s recent COVID-19 spike, he asked Hawaiian Airlines ― the only carrier between Pago Pago and Honolulu ― to suspend flights through November.

“The interests of the 60,000 residents on-island and protecting their lives outweighs the interest of the 600 or more residents stranded in the United States,” said Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, executive Assistant to American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

“As the governor has continuously pointed out, more healthcare facilities are available in Hawaii and mainland states that they can access if they contract the virus,” he added.

Moala, though, thinks the strong ban doesn’t make sense.

“We can’t understand why they they won’t repatriate us,” she said.

The good news: There is some movement in their efforts. On Monday, more than 260 people who were stranded in American Samoa left on a Hawaiian Airlines flight for Honolulu chartered by Medicaid.

Epifania Rapozo and her two children, of Washington state, were on that flight and spoke to Hawaii News Now minutes before leaving Pago Pago.

“We are so excited. We cannot wait to get home,” said Rapozo.

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