Olympia woman stranded overseas, trapped by coronavirus pandemic

SEATTLE – The quickly spreading coronavirus pandemic spurred the United States State Department to warn all Americans to avoid traveling overseas.

But many tourists were already offshore by that time and now some travelers find themselves trapped with no way to get home. That includes one Thurston County woman on vacation in the Philippines.

“Kind of developing panic as a lot of people are feeling right now,” said Loren Locke. “I just feel like this extra panic because I worry I won’t get home at all.”

Locke lives in Olympia but has been in the Philippines for a little over two weeks. She’s on Samal Island where her father lives, but only days ago she learned from her airline that her return flight home was canceled.

“There was no warning at all,” she said.

“The state department issues a level 4 global travel advisory,” United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week.

The state department warned Americans to avoid international travel and said vacationers should come home as soon as possible.

“My immediate reaction was I had a panic attack,” said Locke. “It was a very scary situation and I had to find a way to get home.”

The Philippines government then issued its own quarantine measures, though it would allow foreigners like Locke to travel to the nearest international airport to fly home.

But Locke says she could not get there in time.

“I keep seeing articles about stranded tourists in Peru and I’m wondering how they’re getting help,” she said, “Because, I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about it really.”

Locke says she was told she could be stranded until mid-April. While she is still with loved ones, she worries what the next few weeks will be like living overseas while trying to avoid contracting the virus.

“I’m worried that I will get it and I won’t be able to get home,” said Locke. “I’m worried. I’ll give it to the people I’m around."