“The U.S. needs to take care of its people in a time like this,” said Marto, who feels ignored and frustrated. “We are scared.”

A 21 year-old Yreka native finds herself along with 1,400 other Americans stranded in Peru after the South American country declared a state of emergency on Monday, closing its borders in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Carly Marto and her 21 year-old boyfriend, Jared Petry of San Diego, are currently staying at a hotel in Lima’s tourist district while they wait for help. Because the U.S. Embassy has closed its doors in Lima, the two UC Santa Barbara environmental science students are unsure how – or when – they’ll be able to return home.

“The U.S. needs to take care of its people in a time like this,” said Marto, who feels ignored and frustrated. “We are scared.”

The couple traveled to Chile in January for winter quarter to take part in a UCSB Wildland Studies program abroad. After they finished the program on March 5, the two traveled around Chile for a week, then planned to spend a week in Cusco, Peru to visit sites like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.

“We were originally scheduled to return to the U.S. today (March 20),” Marto said. “But when coronavirus escalated on Saturday, March 14, we moved our flight to Monday, March 16 to get home early, to be extra safe.”

When they got to the Cusco airport the morning of March 16, “it was packed,” said Marto.

It turns out the Peruvian government had issued a state of emergency the day before, giving international tourists 24 hours to leave before a 15-day mandatory quarantine took effect.

“We were relieved we had a flight out before the cutoff, but when we went to check in we learned that the leg of our trip from Lima to LAX had been canceled, said Marto. “We panicked but figured it was best to at least fly from Cusco to Lima, because Lima is the only airport in Peru with international flights and we might be able to buy another flight at the airport in Lima before the cutoff.”

After their first short flight, the couple spent all day Monday to get on any flight out of Lima, to no avail.

“The airport was swamped and chaotic like a scene from ‘World War Z,’” Marto said.

The two were lucky to find a decent hotel in Lima’s Miraflores tourist district. Then they went directly to the U.S. Embassy for assistance, but it was closed.

Everyone was turned away, including an elderly couple running out of medicine, said Marto. Instead of being invited inside, they were instead given the embassy’s email address.

To complicate things further for the two students, the U.S. on Thursday announced a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory, which urges U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.

The advisory stresses that all traveling Americans should return home immediately, or be prepared to stay abroad for an indefinite period of time, said Marto.

“This could take place before Peru’s travel ban ends, meaning we’d be stuck here for an indefinite amount of time,” she added.

Marto and Petry are desperate to get back to the U.S. “We don’t feel safe here,” Marto said. “There are police everywhere. ... No private cars are allowed on the streets, hotels and hostels are shutting down and there are few ways left to get food – and not much of it left.”

So far, they’ve been lucky, Marto said. Their hotel has been “safe and reliable.” But there are curfews in place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and “if you go outside you will be arrested.”

Besieged by pleas for help, the U.S. State Department and its embassies around the world have offered little to no assistance.

“Brazil flew all of their people out this morning for free, and according to the ‘Americans stuck in Peru’ Facebook group, the UK and France are both working with their people to get them home,” Marto said, adding that rumors have gone around that President Trump would be sending military plans to pick them up yesterday. However, she’s heard nothing further.

In an interview Wednesday with Fox News, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the State Department is “working to try and solve problems for each of those American citizens” stuck abroad.

“We just learned about them over the last couple of days,” Pompeo said, referring to a group of American students in Peru, among other cases. “It’ll take us some amount of time.”

Marto said while she and Petry are feeling desperate, locals “don’t seem panicked, but they definitely seem on edge. The people here seem to be working extra hours and dealing with crazy Americans, so they definitely seem stressed about that, but I don’t speak Spanish so I can’t have a genuine conversation with the locals to understand their atmosphere.”

While they wait for help, Marto said she signed up for the U.S. Embassy’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which sends out important information when it becomes available. She’s also placed herself on a Google sheet of U.S. citizens stuck in Peru, among other suggestions the embassy has made on its website.

In addition, she’s doing her best to post of her plight on social media, keep in contact with other Americans and is having her family members contact congressman, senators and the White House to seek help.

"The scariest part of our situation is that the government isn’t doing much to help us and that things are happening so fast," Marto said. "Even though people want to ignore what’s going on they should really be paying close attention because you never know how this virus will change your life."