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‘We want to go home’: RI couple stuck overseas amid coronavirus travel ban

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Cranston couple is among hundreds of Americans stuck in Morocco after the government there suspended travel amid the coronavirus crisis.

Kelsey Broadmeadow and her husband Chuck Walkup have been in Morocco – located in the northwestern region of Africa – since they arrived for a vacation on March 8.

When they left the United States, Broadmeadow said there were only two cases of COVID-19 in the country and there were no travel restrictions. Within days, worldwide numbers mushroomed, and the Moroccan government canceled the majority of travel on March 15. (As of Wednesday, there were 49 confirmed cases, according to a government website.)

“We spent about 12 hours at the airport yesterday,” Broadmeadow said in an interview via FaceTime. “They had it barricaded so you couldn’t approach the desk and they separated us into French citizens and everybody else.”

She said they watched people who had boarding passes to get out of the country lose their seats to French citizens.

“They were prioritizing them,” she said.

Walkup said at one point they were told they could leave the country if they could get a connecting flight through Paris so they quickly booked one, only to be told later they couldn’t board a flight to France.

“You get excited, then you get told something completely different so it kind of crushes you,” Walkup said. “It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions.”

The couple has reached out to the American Embassy in Morocco, but have been told to stay away over concerns that visitors could be infected.

“They took our passport numbers and our names and contact information,” Broadmeadow said. “That was probably four or five days ago.”

Chip Unruh, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, said in an email that his office “has been in constant contact” with the couple.

“Senator Reed is working around-the-clock to help bring home Rhode Islanders who are stranded abroad,” Unruh said. “He is urging the State Department to do everything possible to ensure that flights are available, including the possibility of rescue repatriation flights.”

“Senator Reed will continue monitoring the situation and making the case to bring these folks home,” he added.

Meaghan McCabe, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, said they are working to get the couple on a flight within days.

“Senator Whitehouse’s constituent services staff has been working with the U.S. Embassy in Casablanca to try to get the couple back home to Cranston,” McCabe said. “The couple is currently scheduled to depart Morocco on Thursday, barring any action by the Moroccan government to ground all flights or cancellation of the flight by the carrier.”

Broadmeadow said it has been unnerving being in another country amid a pandemic, particularly at the airport.

“There wasn’t a lot of care about what happened to us, they had no problem crowding everyone together and sectioning us off,” she said. “It is stressful.”

Broadmeadow said they were able to take in some of the country’s sights before the government closed down public spaces, restaurants and other attractions, and the tour guides that were bringing them around have been helpful. But they are now essentially stuck in their hotel room until they hear they can head to the airport with hopes of getting back home.

When they do return to Rhode Island, Broadmeadow and Walkup said they are prepared for more time together under a required two-week quarantine.

“It is a little bit like marriage ‘Survivor,’” she quipped.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

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