Tampa residents stuck in Peru - but healthy - as virus hits worldwide

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. Instead, four friends from Tampa are stuck in Peru with no way out.

"[We were going to see] Machu Picchu, with it being one of the top tourist sites in the world, seeing pictures of it, hearing stories of friends going," said Michael Dooley, who traveled there from Tampa.

Their story will be much different. After getting to Peru on Sunday, the four friends from Tampa, including Michael Dooley and Kalab Byrd, never made it out of Lima. 

After Peru clamped down on both domestic and international travel, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they found themselves with a narrow window to find flights remotely affordable or face indefinite quarantine. 

They're healthy but stuck.

"They say it is a fifteen-day quarantine, but who knows if it could last longer?" said Dooley, who spoke to Fox 13 via Facebook Video.

Tampa Rep. Kathy Castor released a statement saying: 

"We are pressing the State Department to charter flights or make other arrangements to bring American citizens, including Tampa area residents, home as soon as possible.

"Today, Administration officials advised that a hiccup occurred when an empty flight to Lima was not allowed because they wanted to carry Peruvian citizens back to Peru rather than fly it empty."

Reports say American citizens are stuck in several countries right now, and they're well aware the America they'll be coming back to is changed.

Three of the four people in the Airbnb in Lima say they have been laid off from industries that are hardest hit by the virus. 

"We wish to be back with our friends and families so we can be with them during this time," said Dooley.

Though they hope to one day see the sights they dream of, this trip will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

"The parks are closed, restaurants, bars, all closed, we haven't been able to have ceviche so that was one of the things we were looking forward to," he said.

The state department recommends any stranded traveler register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program which helps local embassies keep track of your whereabouts if emergencies like a quarantine arise. 

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map