Knox Co. family’s spring break vacation to Portugal changed amid global coronavirus concerns


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As more and more sporting events, parades and concerts are canceled, travel plans are also changing.

MORE: Coronavirus: 18 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Tennessee; Knox Co. sees first case

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump addressed the country announcing restrictions on passenger travel from 26 European nations to the U.S. for 30 days and goes into effect Friday at midnight.

MORE: World walls off as leaders warn viral pandemic will worsen

President Trump says the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom, and there would be exemptions for “Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.” He said the U.S. would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.

Pebby Distefano and her daughter left Knoxville and landed in Boston on Wednesday. From there, they were going to jump on their next flight on the way to Portugal.

“President Trump came on the TV and then all of a sudden the flight attendants, everybody, came out and said that we could go but we had to stay for 30 days plus an additional 14 for quarantine. Of course we opted not to go and everybody on that flight did not get to go,” said Distefano.

The family took pictures inside Boston Logan International Airport on Thursday and shared the experience was unlike anything else, “It is dead. It is absolutely dead. The international flights are crazy because it’s empty, totally empty. The only part that’s busy is where people are trying to get back home and it’s not that busy.”

This mom and daughter were leaving East Tennessee on spring break.

“I can’t be gone 45 days no matter how much I’d enjoy that,” said Distefano.

“I was like so sad because we’ve planned this for a long time and stuff,” added 6th grader Emma Distefano.

All week they’ve gone back and forth on what to do, worrying about coronavirus overseas.

“Since it’s a pandemic now, because I had thought about not going but since they wouldn’t refund us, I was just like ‘Forget it. We’re going.’ And now they have to refund us so we’re going to put that towards a safari in Africa in a couple years,” said Distefano.

They’re being careful and flying back to Atlanta to make the most of their time off.

“I think it was more a blessing in disguise because had they done this a day later, I would’ve been in big trouble. So, I’m very thankful it happened when it did,” said Distefano.


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