Bahamian student in Oklahoma persevered to return home

Bahamian student in Oklahoma persevered to return home
Kristen Curry, a Bahamian accounting student at East Central University in Ada, Okla.

Kristen Curry rushed against the clock and cancelled flights to find her way back to The Bahamas amid COVID-19 pandemic

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Kristen Curry, a Bahamian student at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, had a flight booked to return to The Bahamas last Monday, but after the airline cancelled, she was left scrambling to find a way back home.

Curry, who lives on-campus, but also resides with an American-host family in Seminole, was undecided about returning until she realized the gravity of the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States.

“Kelly, my Oklahoma mom, she called me from upstairs — that was around when they decided to close their borders to Mexico and Canada — and said I think you need to go home like yesterday,” the accounting major told Eyewitness News.

“I think that scared her and she figured eventually or soon the same thing would happen for us (The Bahamas).

“For me, I just wanted to be home.

“It seemed like the easiest, simplest thing to do and just be home instead of Oklahoma where there are a lot more cases than The Bahamas.”

An emergency was declared in The Bahamas on March 17.

Curry checked out of her dorm in Ada and travelled to Seminole after booking a noon flight for March 23.

However, the flight was cancelled later on that evening.

At the time, there were over 100 confirmed cases in Oklahoma.

To date, there have been nearly 900 cases and at least 34 deaths in the state.

A 24-hour national curfew, and closure of airport with certain exceptions was ordered on March 24.

The order extends to April 8.

The idea of returning home amid a shelter-in-place order did not deter her.

However, she said she was unsure she would make it as she received conflicting information about Bahamians returning and needed to get certain international documents signed before traveling.

“I was pushing, booking tickets and trying to get through,” Curry shared.

“I found a ticket and booked it. I was supposed to come through Miami to Nassau.

“That got canceled. There was another on for Wednesday that was going to connect through Philadelphia and that one didn’t get cancelled until Tuesday evening.

“I expected to because I saw that I was the only person on it (seating plan). The ticket also jumped from $94 to $1,900.

“I don’t why, but that’s what happened, so that told me that flight was probably not going to go.

“So, I started trying to find another way home.”

Curry called several Bahamian students in her position in Oklahoma, telling them their best chance was to book the same flight.

However, due to concerns about the risk of traveling, the three students did not follow through.

Curry persisted.

She eventually found a United Airlines flight transiting through Houston.

But during the initial leg of the flight she received a notification that the second flight was delayed.

“It worried me, but I think I was able to stay calm because it wasn’t cancelled,” she said.

“I didn’t freak out.”

Despite the notice, the airplane showed up on time.

Curry said scattered travelers and other airport personnel wore masks and gloves at the airport.

 

Upon landing in The Bahamas, both immigration and customs officers grilled Curry on her travel history, whether she was experiencing any flu-like symptoms or came into contact with anyone who was sick.

At the time of the interview, there were five confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Ten days later, cases have climbed to 24 and three people have died.

The emergency orders has closed the country’s borders, prohibiting flights and cruise ships from transporting visitors to The Bahamas.

Emergency orders also prevent domestic travel.

Bahamians abroad have been urged to contact the relevant embassies on consulate general offices.

Several Bahamians in Barbados told Eyewitness News last week they were stranded in the country.

Similarly, a couple from the Dominican Republic, who were on vacation in The Bahamas, said they were stuck here, and preparing for the long haul.