Sonoma County families stranded abroad recount struggles to return home amid coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic cost a free-roaming Sebastopol family of four a trek to Machu Picchu, and they are now among hundreds of Americans stranded high in the Andes mountains of Peru.
It’s been nine days since Peru shut down in response to the pandemic, leaving Carmen and Brian Sinigiani and their two teenage sons cooped up in a comfortable apartment in Cusco, where they say about 900 Americans are also unable to move, much to Rep. Jared Huffman’s dismay.
“We’re no closer to getting home,” Carmen Sinigiani, 40, said by telephone Monday, admitting their outlook was not bleak. “We have food and wifi, which is pretty much all you need today.”
A pair of Sebastopol retirees, meanwhile, are under tight lockdown in Amman, Jordan, and a Santa Rosa nurse got some unusual help getting home from a diving trip to the Solomon Islands.
The Sinigianis and their sons, Anthony, 15, and Joey, 14, both Analy High School students, were primed for their hike to the ancient Inca citadel a mile and a half high in the Andes when they woke up March 16, the morning after their local tour guide had said everything was fine
But that was the day Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra’s order took effect, closing the borders, grounding all flights and imposing a nationwide quarantine.
“We had until that night to get out,” Carmen Sinigiani said in an email, and their frantic effort to get on a plane failed as crowds swarmed the airport and the American consulate.
The Sinigianis are among 13 of Huffman’s North Coast constituents stuck in Peru — which has reported 395 cases of coronavirus infection, including one in Cusco, and five deaths. Huffman is peeved about the Trump administration’s inaction.
“We’ve got to get these Americans home,” said Huffman, D-San Rafael. “I am not at all satisfied with the response we’ve gotten.”
The White House released a guidance Monday that said officials were collaborating with the Peruvian government on getting Americans home, but added: “For those in Cusco, be reassured that we know large numbers of U.S. citizens are there, and we are working on options.”
That amounts to telling the Americans to “fend for themselves,” Huffman said.
He and three other California House Democrats — Reps. Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto, Zoe Lofgren of San Jose and Ro Khanna of Santa Clara — said in a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo they had been “inundated with frantic calls from constituents” stuck far from home.
“This is a crisis that could last for a week, making it even more dangerous for these travelers who had only planned for a short-term vacation,” the letter said, asking Pompeo to “do everything in your power” to protect and serve the stranded citizens.
Several of his constituents were expected to fly out of Guatemala on Monday, while his office got word of five more stranded in undetermined countries, Huffman said.
Rep. Mike Thompson’s Santa Rosa office is currently assisting a constituent from Sonoma stuck in Iraq and received word of a constituent from the Sonoma Valley stranded in New Zealand, an aide said.
Many of the Americans in Cusco have established an online connection, Carmen Sinigiani said.
The family, which left home March 13, flew to Lima and took a connecting flight to Cusco, at 11,000 feet in the Andes. The famed city is known for its Spanish colonial architecture and Incan ruins.