A travel agency reportedly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus on a spring break getaway to Mexico before 44 of the 70 students on the excursion tested positive for the disease.
JusCollege, the student-focused travel firm, has been unable to provide full refunds to those students who opted not to travel, NBC News reported Thursday.
The students affected all attend the University of Texas at Austin and went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in March for spring break.
Originally, the vacation included a larger number of participants but many decided not to go in light of the need to practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump has extended social distancing advisability until Apr. 3o. (RELATED: Harvard Tells Students Not To Return Amid Coronavirus Spread)
The daughter of Karen Greenblatt had plans to leave on the excursion but her family began to have second thoughts when the COVID-19 outbreak increased in scope. Greenblatt decided to ask the travel agency if her concerns were justified.
JusCollege assured the family that there was no reason to worry. “We believe that there is no compelling reason to reconsider travel to Mexico at this time due to Coronavirus,” the agency responded to Greenblatt on March 11 in an email obtained by NBC News. “We believe that our destinations remain among the safest and most enjoyable destinations in the world to visit right now.” (RELATED: U.S. Colleges And Universities Cancel Study Abroad Programs Amid Coronavirus Fears)
Just two days later, the wife of the president of U of T at Austin was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Gleenblatt told NBC News that she was shocked at the agency’s seemingly cavalier response.
“I couldn’t believe they were going to take college kids outside the country at that point,” she said. “They had ‘no compelling reason.’ I’m like, ‘Seriously … no compelling reason?'”
The mother said the travel agency seemed to be putting profits before health concerns.
“It’s terrible to exploit kids like that,” she told NBC.
JusCollege said it is trying to get “a credit or partial refund” for its customers.
“We take the safety of our customers very seriously, and always follow U.S Government regulations and guidance from the State Department when making travel recommendations. As a distributor of travel services, we are working tirelessly with airlines and hotels to get the best possible outcome for our customers — whether that’s a credit or partial refund … We apologize for the delays and will continue doing everything we can to help at this difficult time,” spokeswoman Renee Soto stated in an email to the Daily Caller.