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Travel agent on coronavirus: ‘Monitor the situation & make sure you have travel insurance’

Consumer Reports also recommends checking with airlines

How the coronavirus affects travel plans
How the coronavirus affects travel plans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Looking to make travel plans this summer but worried how the new coronavirus might affect them?

Well, it’s not the first time travelers have had to worry about getting sick while going abroad. It’s also not the first time Avondale Travel President and Agent Leigh Elizabeth Israel has had to address those concerns.

“It’s sheer panic and it shouldn’t be. It’s a concern, but if you’re taking precautions, if you’re aware of surroundings, you should be fine," Israel said.

First, check the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. health protection agency that tracks the new coronavirus around the world.

The CDC currently recommends people avoid nonessential travel to China, where the virus originated, as well as to Iran, Italy and South Korea. The agency also has lower-level warnings about travel to other countries. Check the website for the latest travel notice on specific countries.

“What recommendations do you have for 60 to 90 days? Should I book still if I want to go out of the country? News4Jax asked.

“Absolutely, just monitor the situation and make sure you have travel insurance,” Israel said.

Buyer beware -- not all travel insurance is equal.

“When you book your travel insurance policy, you can book a cancel for any reason. That is if you feel like all of a sudden you do not want to travel, that is covered. If you do not have that cancel for any reason policy and are just scared to travel because of the coronavirus, then it will not be covered,” Israel said.

Regardless of the situation, Israel always recommends buying travel insurance -- coronavirus or not.

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Consumer Reports recommends checking in with airlines, which are beginning to adjust their policies to reflect the uncertainty over travel.

For example, Jet Blue said it will waive fees for changing or canceling flights booked from Feb. 27 through March 11 for travel completed by June 1. Those canceling their plans will get a credit good for one year.

American Airlines said it is suspending operations to and from Milan, Italy, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Miami International Airport. Flights to Milan are scheduled to resume April 25.

Delta Air Lines said beginning Monday, March 2, it too was temporarily suspending flights between JFK and Milan Malpensa Airport. Its service to and from Milan will resume starting May 1.

As for wearing a surgical mask while you travel, unless you are sick, there’s no need for one. According to doctors, masks will not prevent germs from coming in -- they’re just meant to stop them from spreading.

About the Author:

Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.