Pandemic leaves American Samoa residents stranded, homesick

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By FILI SAGAPOLUTELE and JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER Associated Press

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — Makerita Iosefo Vaʻa hasn’t been home for nearly eight months — the longest she’s ever been away from American Samoa.

She longs for the breezes that cool island humidity and the ocean sounds and smells that permeate her home in the village of Tula. She also misses the food that’s impossible to recreate in Tracy, California, where the coronavirus pandemic has left her and her husband stranded.

“Every time I talk about it, I just cry,” she said.

Vaʻa left the U.S. territory in the Pacific in February with her husband for medical treatment. They planned to fly home in March from San Francisco but decided to postpone after hearing a security worker at the airport had contracted the virus.

Since then, they haven’t been able to leave because American Samoa Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga closed the territory on March 13 to protect those on the islands from COVID-19 — and it hasn’t reported any cases.

In July, after the order was extended, the Vaʻas stopped bothering to make travel plans and are awaiting word from government officials about when they can come home.

“The interests of…



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