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‘Quite a few wearing masks:’ In emails to travelers, airlines reassure planes are clean amid coronavirus

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MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Pierce County Public Health Department announced Monday, March 9 that a second person tested positive for COVID-19 — coronavirus. DHS officials said the person was exposed while traveling within the U.S. and was in isolation at home. The first case involved a Dane County resident who returned from China and was placed under quarantine at the end of January. That case was announced Feb. 5. The U.S. death toll rose to 26 Monday, and FOX6 News found travelers at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport taking precautions.

"I've got my hand sanitizer, and I've got the N95 masks," said Willie Wanzo. "I saw quite a few people wearing masks and rubber gloves."

Willie Wanzo

Meanwhile, at Bayside Travel, consultants reported a lot of calls.

Ann Valley

Ann Valley

"Last week was very chaotic," said Ann Valley with Bayside Travel. "Some of them have a concern of catching the virus, although more of them are concerned about being somewhere and then not being able to come home because they'll be quarantined in case they've come in contact with the virus."

The U.S. State Department advised Sunday against any travel on cruise ships, particularly for those with underlying health conditions. The advisory said the CDC has noted an “increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”

Cruise industry leaders met over the weekend with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Vice President Mike Pence and were asked to devise and fund ways to transport any passengers found to carry the virus. Cruise line heads agreed to enhance entry and exit screenings and establish shipboard testing, along with new quarantine standards established by the CDC.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte put his entire country on lockdown to combat the coronavirus Monday -- banning all but the most important travel and putting the final kibosh on social gatherings after Italians failed to take previous warnings to heart amid skyrocketing infections. Conte urged all 60 million Italians to stay home, with the only travel allowed for proven work reasons, for health conditions or other cases of necessity. The restrictions were set to take effect Tuesday and last until at least April 3.

Jeanne Reuter

Jeanne Reuter

"The fear and the panic is almost worse than, I think, than 9/11 because we haven't hit that bottom yet," said Jeanne Reuter with Bayside Travel.

Those at Bayside Travel noted some travelers trying to figure out what to do if they were to cancel, and how travel insurance could cover them. Valley said it depends on what type of insurance you get before the trip, but most travelers are almost never fully refunded.

"Most insurance companies do not cover 'cancel for any reason' as a normal inclusion," said Valley.

The travel agents said they were working to ease anxiety -- ready for things to get back to normal.

"Just relax," said Reuter. "Calm down. It will be ok."

The major airlines sent emails reassuring customers their planes are clean and they're taking extra precautions to put passengers' health at the forefront. At least one airline, Delta, is allowing passengers to change or cancel flights for March or April without fees.

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