This US Territory Has a Big Issue: No Tests

A coronavirus outbreak could devastate American Samoa
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2020 6:15 PM CDT
This US Territory Has a Big Issue: No Tests
This Wednesday, March 4, 2020, photo shows the entrance to the Port of Pago Pago with main Port Administration building on the left and a US based longline fishing fleet anchored at the main dock in Pago Pago, American Samoa.   (AP Photo/Fili Sagapolutele)

Worried about the coronavirus? Imagine getting it in American Samoa, which can't test for COVID-19 and has only one hospital with space to quarantine 10 patients. Now, NBC News reports, someone living in the distant US territory appears to have symptoms. So American Samoa tried sending the samples to Hawaii—which has the nearest public health laboratory, 2,300 miles away—but the case didn't match Hawaii's testing criteria. American Samoa ultimately sent them to the CDC in Atlanta, over 6,500 miles away, and hasn't heard back after six days.

Which raises the question of how the Pacific Islands territory will cope if there's an outbreak. "If they can’t get fast testing, they need to rely on other measures such as social distancing," said Karen Levy, a microbiologist and epidemiologist at Emory University. "It makes social distancing that much more important for them." One other US territory is unable to conduct public tests—the Northern Mariana Islands—while Guam and Puerto Rico can, and the US Virgin Islands is expected to start next week. The Guardian notes that Guam has 29 confirmed cases and the Pacific Islands' first confirmed death, a 68-year-old woman who already had serious health issues. (More coronavirus stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.