‘It’s Safer In Beirut’: Americans Rebuff US Govt Offer To Return Home To Global Epicenter
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that in total 50,000 Americans have been brought home to US soil after being stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying country shutdowns.
“We have bought more than 50,000 Americans back home from more than 90 counties,” Pompeo said Wednesday. But given that since the end of last month the United States has become the global epicenter, leading the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, Americans abroad increasingly don’t want to come home, even when offered a ‘free ride’.
“I think that I am probably safer here,” one US citizen in Beirut, Lebanon said after after the US embassy offered to fly Americans out of the country. “I made that decision for a combination of personal reasons and calculations about the virus that we’re all making,” said the Montana resident, Carly Fuglei, who decided the risk for exposure in the US is much higher.
Another, Beirut-based freelance journalist Abby Sewell, said she’s not taking the offer either, given that, “From everything I’m reading, the situation is worse in the US, in terms of the number of cases, prevention measures or lack thereof, and how overburdened the health system is.”
“For once I’m like no America is not safer than here,” Lebanese journalist Dala Mawad added.
Some US and dual citizens deciding to weather the pandemic crisis in other countries also worry about lack of health insurance and potential medical costs should they get sick upon return to the US. Others might calculate that the risk of international air travel — even if facilitated by the State Department — could itself increase possible exposure.
In the case of Lebanon the US flew nearly one hundred out of the Middle East country at the start of the week.
“On the morning of April 5, the US embassy flew 95 US citizens out of Lebanon, according to a US State Department official. It is estimated that thousands of Americans live in Lebanon — many of whom also hold Lebanese citizenship,” CNN reported.
Currently Lebanon has 582 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths out of a population of over 6 million. US numbers on the other hand, appear to be doubling each week, now at over 430,000 cases, including over 14,800 deaths – most in New York.