Coronavirus cancels plans for travelers

Holly McGuire, a Greenfield travel agent, has gone from booking highly anticipated Disney vacations to facilitating their cancellations after the theme parks shut down. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

HANCOCK COUNTY — When it comes to going on trips, coronavirus is impacting Holly McGuire both professionally and personally.

Not only were she and her family planning to depart soon for a Disney cruise and Disney World vacation, but she’s also the CEO of Greenfield-based Hi Ho Vacations, which provides vacation-planning services for Disney parks and cruises and Royal Caribbean cruises.

Disney announced the closing of Disney World and its cruise lines Thursday because of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, joining the company’s theme park closings across North America, Europe and Asia. Around the world — from productions on Broadway to Formula 1 racing in Australia — places and events have shut down because of concerns over transmission of the virus.

Now, would-be spring break travelers from Hancock County are adding their travel plans to that ever-growing group.

McGuire and her husband own Hi Ho Vacations, which has 35 independent contractors across the country.

Fortunately, Disney has waived cancellation fees and allowed her and her colleagues to move clients’ reservations, she said, adding Royal Caribbean has done the same. Many airlines have been equally flexible, she added.

Clients have been understanding about the disruption, she said.

“Some families have saved for a year or more to go on this trip, and so for some it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip and we know that it’s disappointing, but Disney World’s not going anywhere,” she said. “It’ll be there when all this is over and then we can start planning for them when it’s time.”

Disney has also extended commission protection to her company for all canceled reservations due to the virus, McGuire said.

Her company is helping clients first who are en route to Disney destinations and who checked in after the closing announcements. In some cases, clients chose to amend their vacations and remain in the area, she said.

McCordsville resident Klancey Zubowski and her family were planning to travel to Florida, including a two-day visit to Disney World, before canceling after Thursday’s announcement. She said they considered still going to the Sunshine State, but then thought better of it, thinking beach and other destination closings may be right around the corner.

“As much fun as getting stuck in Florida sounds like, we’re not really looking to do that,” she said.

She agrees with Disney’s decision.

“Limiting where you have thousands and thousands of people from all over the place — I think was the smarter thing to do, just to get a handle on the situation,” she said.

The family’s travel expenses were refunded without question, Zubowski said, adding they now plan to go in the fall.

Gracie Johnson, a Greenfield native, Eastern Hancock High School alumnus and Purdue University sophomore studying agricultural communications, was supposed to study abroad in Greece over spring break until the university canceled the trip because of coronavirus.

“It’s a bummer, but I’m relieved actually,” Johnson said. “There’s just a lot of risks involved — things that were going to be out of our control — so I was glad they canceled it.”

Part of the trip was going to include tours of Greek farms, Johnson said. She added the university has a plan in the works for students to make up the credit they’d otherwise lose by not going on the trip.

Johnson said she’s been washing her hands a lot and trying not to touch her face. She’s seen a lot of kids on campus wearing masks or skipping class. Professors have been emailing students encouraging them not to attend class if they feel sick and that they’ll be lenient with attendance policies.

“The university’s definitely thinking about what might happen,” Johnson said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Things to consider before travel” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going?

Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?

Are you or your travel companion(s) at higher risk of severe illness if you do get COVID-19?

Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you get exposed to, or are sick with, COVID-19?

Do you live with someone who is older or has a severe chronic health condition?

Is COVID-19 spreading where you live?

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”By the numbers” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

COVID-19 in the U.S. as of March 13

  • Total cases: 1,629
  • Total deaths: 41

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”By the numbers” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Indiana COVID-19 data as of 11:59 p.m. March 12

Total positive cases: 12

Total deaths: 0

Total tested by Indiana State Department of Health: 73

Source: Indiana State Department of Health