4 consumer topics to think about when it comes to the coronavirus

Hank Winchester helps keep you informed during coronavirus outbreak

4 consumer topics to think about when it comes to the coronavirus
4 consumer topics to think about when it comes to the coronavirus

DETROIT – Right now there are four consumer topics everyone is thinking about when it comes to how the coronavirus might affect their everyday lives, and Help Me Hank has answers to those issues.

  1. What to do about travel plans
  2. Work/how to talk to your employer
  3. How schools are preparing
  4. What do do about stocking up on supplies


Airlines are continuing to suspend and reduce flights between the United States and Asia from now through the end of April. If your flight is canceled, you’ll be eligible for a refund or re-book without penalty.

Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines all have waivers available online, but they’re only for people who are traveling to affected cities and countries.

When it comes to insurance policies, a premium “cancel for any reason” policy allows you to do just that, but it’s time-sensitive and expensive. One quote for a $5,000 cruise priced a typical insurance plan at $144. The “cancel for any reason” policy was $563 -- nearly four times higher.


What about work? Companies are getting plans together in case the virus hits their office.

JPMorgan Chase is already asking employees to try to work from home with teleconferencing, prepping them for the future.

Right now, most companies are limiting travel to affected countries.

If you’ve recently traveled abroad, your employer can ask you to stay home for the incubation period, which is 14 days. They could then require you to take a medical exam.

If you’re asked to stay home, salaried workers could get paid to work from home, but hourly workers might only be paid for the time they work in the office. If you ask to stay home out of concern, some companies might make you use personal or vacation time since we’re not in an affected area. It’s dependent on company policy.


Schools are starting to release their own contingency plans, as well.

The Miami School District is preparing 250,000 laptops and tablets for students work from home. In Michigan, public schools are monitoring the situation and working with state and local health departments.

Many have canceled attendance incentive programs.

Experts recommend talking with your employer and asking when you should do if your child’s school shuts down because of the coronavirus.


Across the country, reports of store shelves emptied out as Americans stock up to hunker down. At one pharmacy in Birmingham, people have already cleared the shelves.

Remember: the surgeon general said face masks aren’t necessary.

Amazon, Walmart and eBay are all cracking down on third-party price gouging of supplies such as hand sanitizer.

If the coronavirus grows into a pandemic, Homeland Security recommends having a two-week supply of food on hand.

About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.