ATLANTA - Strangers on a tropical paradise vacation found themselves locked down by one nation’s fears of the coronavirus. But, with the help of a simple communication app, known as WhatsApp, and a global security company, all 144 new best friends made it safely home from Honduras this past Sunday.
It began as a luxury vacation, on a blue water, sandy beach paradise island.
Sharon Dickinson and her husband Dr. Vernon Alford Jr. left America on March 14 for Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras, just as the coronavirus outbreak was ramping up.
“It was starting to get more noise at that point,” said Dickinson.
The island was beautiful, idyllic, and restful as a group of friends soaked up the sun for a planned week trip.
“We’re going to a remote place, how bad could it be?” Asked Dickinson.
It got really bad, really fast. With COVID-19 spreading like wildfire, Honduras and Roatan shut down its borders. Businesses on the island shut down. Their Delta flight and two subsequent rebooked Delta flights were canceled.
“That’s what was scary. The rumor was some of the airlines were not going to resume flights until May,” said Dickinson.
Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.
So, Sharon Dickinson and her longtime friends turned to a new wave technology, WhatsApp. Together, strangers talked, planned, plotted, and finally booked a private jet through Global Guardian, which provides security services for corporate and family travelers.
“Oh boy, is this the real deal or is it a scam?” Dickinson recalled wondering about the flight.
It was the real deal. After booking a flight, the group was called into the Roatan airport to wait until the Global Guardian finally jet arrived. Then, there was more waiting, hours more, along with more jangling nerves, until, finally, it was wheels up.
“When we touched down in Miami, that’s when we started cheering and singing and clapping and standing up and getting excited,” said Dickinson.
In the end, each of the 144 WhatsApp strangers paid $1,300 to fly home. It was a small price to pay to escape a pandemic border closing.
“If we had not had that app. That WhatsApp app, we would never have been able to organize to this level,” said Dickinson.
Dickinson and her husband decided to drive home to north Georgia from Miami. Just in time for him to keep an appointment with his doctor for cancer treatment.
Best prevention measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Symptoms, testing and how to prepare amid growing COVID-19 outbreak
- Who is most susceptible to coronavirus? COVID-19 not just affecting older people
- Coronavirus cleaners: These products will kill COVID-19, according to the EPA
- Coronavirus and pets: Your cat or dog probably can’t get COVID-19, WHO says
- Will sick leave protect me if I get ill from coronavirus? 5 questions answered
RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.