Omicron border closure leaves Moroccan woman stuck in Henrico with growing medical bills

Henrico County

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — A Moroccan woman is stuck in Henrico after her home country shut its borders, fearing the new COVID-19 omicron variant. The woman’s family is also grappling with thousands of dollars in U.S. hospital bills that keep arriving in the mail.

Morocco is temporarily banning foreign travelers and even some of the country’s own citizens can’t get back home right now. Ashley Venable’s mother-in-law, a Moroccan citizen, has spent the last few months on a visitor’s visa meeting her new grandchildren in Henrico.

The family has been told the border may re-open in about two weeks, but during this pandemic, two weeks often turns into two months, or longer. That is what the family said they’re worried about.

For some, the new travel restrictions feel a bit like deja vu.

“It feels like the way it all started in the beginning,” Venable said.

According to Venable, their mother-in-law one was supposed to fly back home on Sunday. Because the country has shut its borders fearing the Omicron variant, they don’t know when she will be able to return.

“I really wasn’t expecting them to completely shut down like that,” Venable said.

This isn’t her mother-in-law’s first challenging run-in with COVID.

“It’s just one thing after the other,” she told 8News.

The mother-in-law’s husband sadly passed away from the virus last year in Morocco.

“It’s been really rough after that,” Venable said.

Now, she said the timing of this shutdown couldn’t be worse. The 75-year-old woman recently fell and severely injured her wrists and ribs. Hospital bills are racking up into thousands of dollars.

Her mother-in-law isn’t insured in the U.S. and Venable said she still needs more care, including possible surgery.

“When she got back to Morocco she was going to follow up with her doctor,” Venable said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get her to see a doctor here because it’s so expensive. Most doctors’ offices want a few hundred dollars upfront just to walk in the door.”

Venable said programs she’s finding to help uninsured people get medical care don’t apply in this case.

“They only help people who are permanent residents, who have green cards, who are citizens,” she told 8News.

The family fears how long this shutdown could last, saying they’re experiencing “a lot of stress and worry.”

They’re applying for a financial aid program that the hospital offers to help with the thousands of dollars owed right now. Venable added that her mother-in-law’s visa expires in January.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.

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