Coronavirus

Stuck Out Of The Country Because Of The Coronavirus

Debbie Maclin, left, is seen in Guatemala looking at fabrics. Maclin has been unable to return home as cases of COVID-19  increase globally.
Debbie Maclin, left, is seen in Guatemala looking at fabrics. Maclin has been unable to return home as cases of COVID-19 increase globally.
Credit Courtesy of Eric Schmeckpeper

Debbie Maclin of Acworth, Georgia, is stuck in Guatemala after that country’s President closed its borders due to the coronavirus. She’s hoping she can get back home.

WABE’s host of All Things Considered Jim Burress spoke to Maclin via a sketchy cell phone connection on Friday.

Maclin is a former Peace Corps volunteer who has a small fabric business. And she buys fabric in central America then brings it back to the states. So it wasn’t abnormal a few weeks ago when she got on a plane and flew to Guatemala, a smaller country along the southern border of Mexico.

Just a few weeks before, she’d canceled a trip to China because of the coronavirus. But Guatemala? It was fine. So was the U.S.

Debbie Maclin (Courtesy of Eric Schmeckpeper)

And then the situation started not to be so fine. As cases began to increase globally, flights were filling up, leaving no options.

And soon, COVID-19’s spread had governments taking swift action. Maclin was eating lunch with a friend on Tuesday when she got the news that in 12 hours, the airport would shut down.

Her only e of her options now? Take a bus to Tapachula, Mexico—about a five and a half-hour drive, she estimated. There’s a daily commuter flight to Mexico City, and after a long layover, another flight home to Atlanta.

But it’s a risk. Guatemala’s border is closed, meaning she can leave, but she can’t come back. And that means being cut off from the friends she’s staying with now–her lifeline.

For right now, she feels waiting for a flight out of Guatemala is the best option. There’s a Facebook group of stranded U.S. citizens that she’s part of—3,000 is the estimate. And she said a Delta flight attendant who lives in Guatemala posted the next scheduled flight: April 19.

A check of Delta’s schedule online shows it’s actually the 20th. The two scheduled flights that day were filling up quickly.

Maclin said she’s called the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and hasn’t gotten a call back. The office did call her husband back, she said, here in metro Atlanta. Twice. The embassy asked a lot of questions, then went silent. That was three days ago.

She also registered with INGUAT, the state-owned Guatemalan Tourism Institute. The person on the other end said they’d be in touch.

 

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