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Travel agent says only a few trips canceled due to coronavirus

Travelers say they are taking extra precautions in light of the spread of the coronavirus.
Posted at 5:10 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 18:22:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some passengers flying in and out of Richmond International Airport are taking extra precautions in light of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A third Virginian has tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), state health officials announced on Monday. Symptoms of the disease are cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Kim Goldstein manages Journeys Inc., a travel agency based in Henrico County. She described the last few weeks as “a little crazy in the travel agency.”

She attributed three cancellations out of hundreds of planned trips to the coronavirus.

“One was an elderly couple and she has some lung issues she’s being treated for,” Goldstein explained. That couple had planned to fly to Italy, which is seeing widespread cases in the European country.

Another of Goldstein’s clients canceled a cruise out of an abundance of caution.

“She cares for elderly parents and was afraid she’d be a carrier for something,” Goldstein stated.

She said her clients are looking for reassurance that their trips will be safe.

“Basically, getting a lot of questions, but not a lot of panic or fear for travelers who are traveling soon,” Goldstein explained.

In fact, Goldstein and her family soon plan to take a trip for spring break.

Delta Airlines was among several companies that emailed passengers on Monday detailing their response to the coronavirus, like fogging plans that return from overseas trips in addition to other sanitation and cleaning efforts.

TSA agents will now be allowed to wear face masks when screening passengers at security.

“TSA has authorized frontline personnel whose security screening tasks require them to routinely come into close contact with the traveling public to wear surgical masks if they choose to do so,” a TSA spokesperson said in a statement. “In addition, all of our employees are being encouraged to regularly wash their hands and cover their coughs.”

TSA’s standard operating procedures require frontline personnel to wear nitrile gloves when conducting screening duties and that adds an additional layer of protection, according to a spokesperson.

Travelers at RIC said they have noticed a change in passenger habits.

“I saw one gentleman wearing a mask today,” said Glenn Kirby, who flew into Richmond from Vermont following a connecting flight in Washington D.C. I did see other people cleaning their chairs on the plane.”

Janie Strosenider, who was flying with her husband to Phoenix for a leadership conference, said they are using a disinfectant hand spray to clean their area.

“I’m not worried about it really,” she said. “I feel like it’s going to run its course like the flu.”

While, Dr. Paul Weisz-Carrington, a retired pathologist, called the spread of the coronavirus "frightening."

"The people that are going to die are the older people like myself," he said.

Joey Laden was boarding a flight to head home to Boston after spending his college spring break in Virginia Beach.

“I’ve been using hand sanitizer almost everywhere,” Laden stated. “Since the coronavirus is here [in Virginia] we are trying to play it safe.”

Virginia health officials reminded folks to take the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.

As of Monday morning, more than 500 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 22 people have died as a result of the disease in the country, according to Johns Hopkins.

Click here for complete coverage of the coronavirus.