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Since New Year’s Day, Shelby Pickel had been eagerly waiting to explore Chicago over spring break with her boyfriend and was heartbroken when she had to cancel her trip amid coronavirus concerns.

After learning that all bars and restaurants in Chicago were closed March 15 to curb the spread of COVID-19, Pickel, a junior, decided to cancel her spring break plans with her boyfriend, Michael Balcezak, a junior.

“I was crying so hard because it wasn't just supposed to be my spring break trip,” Pickel said. “It was supposed to also be our anniversary trip and the first trip that we’d ever taken together.”

Pickel said her and Balcezak’s two-year anniversary fell within two weeks of spring break, and they saw the trip as the perfect opportunity to celebrate, she said.

“I was super excited because neither one of us had ever been to Chicago, and so it was a really cool chance for us to both have our first time going to this place together,” Pickel said.

Instead of going on their trip, Pickel and Balcezak decided to stay in Fayetteville and isolate themselves at Pickel’s apartment with her cat, Pickel said. They plan on organizing the apartment, and switching between watching movies and reading so they can still have alone time, she said.

Although the decision to cancel the trip and stay home was the only option, it caused Pickel to feel uneasy, she said.

“The whole idea really messed with my head and really put me through a lot of stress and anxiety because of how uncertain everything was,” Pickel said.

Edward Molina, a senior, will also spend his spring break in Fayetteville and plans to embrace the “staycation” aspect of it after canceling his original plans.

Molina and some of his friends will be staying in Fayetteville for spring break, and they plan on hiking and exploring the area, he said.

Molina canceled his trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, on Thursday, only two days before he was supposed to leave with friends. Molina and his friends decided to stay home after seeing the continuous rise in COVID-19 cases, Molina said.

There are currently 937 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The group of eight got a full refund on their Airbnb, something they were waiting on before canceling, Molina said.

Pickel and Balcezak were able to get a full refund for their hotel room, which was $450, Pickel said. They planned to drive to Chicago, so that was the only cost, she said.

They hope to go to Chicago later in the year to make up for their lost trip but worry that they will not find a good opportunity to go because of school and work. If they went to Chicago toward the end of the year it would not have the same emotional meaning to Pickel, she said.

Along with her anniversary trip, the UofA canceled Pickel’s study abroad program to Ireland.

On March 11, the UofA cancelled all study abroad programs that leave between May 1 and June 15.

Pickel and her mom also canceled a summer vacation to London, which was supposed to be Pickel’s highschool graduation gift from her mom, Pickel said.

“It's just the amount and emotion of all of it being canceled has been a lot,” Pickel said.

Bia Edwards, a sophomore, is missing out on the chance to travel to Japan with her family during spring break. Edwards’s family canceled their trip at the beginning of March because of COVID-19 worries, she said.

Edwards’s family was concerned about the virus when they first heard about it, but it was not until a month ago when other countries began implementing travel restrictions and reporting rising cases, that they decided it would be too risky to go, Edwards said.

“It all happened so fast, we decided to pull the plug,” Edwards said.

There have been 1,048 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan, and 40 deaths caused by the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Japan was one of Edwards's dad’s dream vacation spots, but her family did not want to risk bringing the virus back with them or being quarantined overseas, Edwards said.

Edwards was excited to experience Japanese culture and to travel across the country, but she did not want to potentially endanger others after returning, Edwards said.

Edwards is upset about her family trip being canceled, but she is more distressed about how many people have been severely affected by COVID-19, she said.

Edwards works at the Fayetteville Montessori School and did not want to risk catching the virus and spreading it to students, she said.

Molina and many of his friends have older parents, with their ages ranging from their 40s to 60s, and did not want to risk bringing the virus back home and endangering their parents’ health, he said.

Although he thinks canceling was the right decision, Molina is still disappointed to miss out on his trip and be stuck at home over spring break, he said.

“It’s a bummer because we had been planning so long,” Molina said. “And for a lot of people spring break is the week that they have been working hard for up until then. But now it’s like ‘we’re just gonna stay here and wait it out.’”

Abbi Ross is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since March 2019.

Abby Zimmardi is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since April 2019.

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