ASU student returns from Honduras after being stuck due to COVID-19

The student was part of a football team that was in Honduras when the country closed its borders

Shannon Cooley, an ASU junior studying health sciences, returned home to Arizona on Saturday after being stuck in Honduras when the country shut its borders due to COVID-19.

Cooley was one of 55 on a U.S. women’s tackle football team that is part of the nonprofit American Football Events Team USA.

The team was participating in the Americas Women's Bowl tournament in Tegucigalpa, facing three other teams from Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica.

The tournament's remaining games were canceled on March 14 and the next day the country closed all of its borders. 

Cooley said the team was aware of the risk heading into the tournament, but she did not think the situation would escalate as quickly as it did. 

When the tournament was canceled, the team was disappointed because they were set to play Mexico in the championship game, but Cooley said, "We'd rather not play the game than not get home."

Following the country's shutdown, the team immediately began reaching out to their members of Congress to assist them in returning home.

"We were more worried the U.S. wouldn't let us back in, rather than another country not let us out," Cooley said.

On Wednesday, March 18, the team received a text to head down to the hotel lobby and be ready to leave. The State Department had arranged for other U.S. citizens to come home that night, and had room for 25 of the team members. 

The other 30 had to wait until Friday the 20th before being able to leave the country from a U.S. airbase with groups of other Americans, Cooley said. 

"It felt like a movie," Cooley said. "It was wild; it was like a bucket list moment that I didn't even know was on my bucket list."

The team landed in Charleston, and then each member made their way home from there.

Cooley said her team was lucky to be large enough to draw attention from politicians and media to help ensure their swift return. Cooley hopes the remaining Americans still in Honduras will be able to return home soon as well.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump announced that the State Department was working with the Honduras government on returning Americans stuck in Honduras.

Vice President Mike Pence later added that the State Department is working "around the clock" to get Americans back home. Those returned will be screened when they come back to reduce additional risk for more Americans, Pence said. 

Pence added Americans overseas can visit the Smart Travel Enrollment Program or call at 1-888-407-4747. 


Reach the reporter at wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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