State Department Has Rescued More Than 27,000 Americans Abroad Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Mike Pompeo
Getty Images
March 31, 2020

The State Department has rescued more than 27,000 Americans from 50 countries during the past several weeks since the coronavirus stranded scores of U.S. citizens abroad, including in some countries that have been placed on complete lockdown.

"As of today we have repatriated over 20—I think it's 6, or 27,000 U.S. citizens from more than 50 countries," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Tuesday during a press conference at Foggy Bottom. "The stories of our team's heart and character and commitment to excellence are truly amazing."

This includes more than 800 Americans who were in Wuhan, China, where the virus first began to spread.

With commercial travel reduced or completely halted in many countries around the world, Americans have petitioned the State Department for help. The United States has been able to work with its local embassies to coordinate commercial travel and chartered flights for those stranded outside of the country.

One American "critically ill from the virus" who was suffering in Bhutan, a South Asian country, was rescued, according to Pompeo.

"In Bhutan, no easy place to get to, an American was critically ill from the virus, intubated on a ventilator, and frankly expected to die in a country located in one of the most remote corners of the world," he said. "But we came to the rescue. Our team arranged a biocontainment transport from Bhutan to an intensive care unit in Baltimore, Md., a distance of nearly 8,000 miles."

That included a flight through Kathmandu, which is notoriously difficult to navigate.

"To fly through Kathmandu, there are about 12 pilots who can make that flight," Pompeo said. "It was one of the most complex medical evacuations in history, and the State Department pulled it off."

The rescue effort is among the most unique ever undertaken by the State Department.

"Never in the department's 230-year history have we led a worldwide evacuation of such enormous geographic complexity and such geographic scale," Pompeo said.

These efforts will continue during the next several weeks as more Americans petition the State Department to help them evacuate foreign countries.

While it is unclear how many more Americans are trying to make their way back home, Pompeo said his administration will do all it can to aid Americans abroad.

"We do not know in some countries how long the continued commercial flights in your country may continue to operate," Pompeo warned. "We can't guarantee the U.S. government's ability to arrange chartered flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist."

Meanwhile, the United States has coordinated a massive international aid effort, sending $274 million to some 64 countries.