San Diegans are Stuck Overseas, Struggling to get Home During Coronavirus Pandemic

About 13,500 Americans are stranded abroad and have reached out to the State Department for help in returning to the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a senior state official told NBC News Monday

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Hundreds of Americans are stranded in Peru after the South American country closed its borders due to the coronavirus.

UC Santa Barbara students Jared Petry of San Diego and Carly Marto of Eureka are among the groups of tourists trying to get home.

"There's roadblocks and police are stopping people," said Petry through video chat.

The couple was part of a study abroad program in Chile with UC Santa Barbara, when it ended they traveled on a pre-scheduled trip to Peru two weeks ago.

After spending a few days in Cusco, Peru, they decided to end their trip early due to the growing coronavirus concerns, but when they arrived at the airport they learned they could not leave.

"And as soon as we got there, it was like pure chaos," explained Marto about the scene at the airport in Lima, Peru.

Hours before their flight back to Los Angeles was scheduled to take off, it was canceled.

"We've been through some ups and downs," said Petry. "We got some really bad news that we might not leave until July and we've gotten some good news in hearing that the last few days American citizens have been able to fly back."

The U.S. State Department said as of Monday about 600 Americans have been able to leave Peru.

The couple has yet to hear from the State Department and are under a national quarantine in Peru. They are staying inside a hotel.

"I'm in this crazy group chat with a bunch of other Americans stuck here and everybody's freaking out saying they're getting scam calls," said Petry. "They're about to pay people and give them their Social Security numbers just to get the slightest chance to leave the country. So, I think a lot of people are really desperate to leave."

The two California college students said they are fortunate they are healthy and in good spirits, but they worry about others with health risks.

"There's people who say they're going to face serious medical traumas if they don't have their medicine in the next week's and they can't get it through anywhere here because just everything's closed," said Petry.

According to NBC News, since the effort began, the State Department has repatriated 5,000 Americans from 17 countries and will bring home “thousands more in the coming days and weeks,” the senior state official said.

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