Sep. 20—A Hawaiian Airlines flight to American Samoa that landed on the first day that Hawaiian resumed commercial service is connected to the U.S. territory's first reported case.
The territory's acting governor, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale, and health officials said the islands' first reported case of coronavirus was detected in a resident who returned to America Samoa from a trip to the mainland and Hawaii last week.
The traveler was on a Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Pago Pago on Sept. 13, the same day that Hawaiian resumed its commercial service after 17 months.
Hawaiian had paused commercial flights to American Samoa at the request of the territory's' government. However, Hawaiian has flown repatriation flights since January, which have brought thousands of stranded American Samoa residents back home.
Officials said the sick resident had been fully vaccinated and had tested nega tive for COVID-19 before boarding the Hawaiian flight to American Samoa. The patient was then moved to a government facility for two weeks of isolation and monitoring.
The infected passenger was among about 260 others on the flight, including American Samoa Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who is now in quarantine.
"The discovery of this positive case during quarantine highlights the importance of why our process is critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19, " Mauga in a statement. "It further highlights the importance of maintaining our current quarantine protocols."
Health officials are conducting contact tracing, and all other passengers from the flight are in quarantine for 10 days.
Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said Sunday that the carrier is "cooperating with the American Samoa government in its investigation and contract-tracing efforts."
Hawaiian is scheduled to offer two flights per month to American Samoa through Dec. 20.
Da Silva said Hawaiian intends "to operate our flights as scheduled, but remain in consultation with the government."
American Samoa had been one of the last areas without a COVID-19 case.
There were some coronavirus cases linked with cargo ships that had docked in American Samoa last year. But the crews were never allowed to leave their vessels, and officials did not include cargo ship infections in their overall count.
American Samoa has maintained strict COVID-19 protocols, such as requiring all travelers to be vaccinated and quarantined for 10 days upon arrival. Three tests are required before a flight, and post-travel tests are also offered.
Travelers flying to Hawaii from American Samoa are required to create a state of Hawaii Safe Travels account and upload their vaccination card or negative pre-travel test to avoid quarantine upon arrival.------The Associated Press contributed to this report.