Spring breakers are now experiencing a COVID-19 hangover. After openly flouting social distancing guidelines to party on the beach in Mexico, more than two dozens of University of Texas students have tested positive for the infamous virus.
According to an announcement from the City of Austin, Texas, the Austin Public Health Department is investigating a “cluster” of coronavirus cases, largely involving 70 college students who chartered a plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico a week and a half ago, during which time the nation was being urged to practice social distancing. As many as 28 of those students have now tested positive for COVID-19.
“About a week and a half ago, approximately 70 people in their 20’s departed in a chartered plane for a spring break trip,” the announcement said. “Some of the group returned on separate commercial flights. Currently, 28 young adults on this trip have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more are under public health investigation. Four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms.”
“While Mexico at the time of their travel was not under a federal travel advisory, Austin-Travis County residents should follow CDC’s travel recommendations indicating travelers avoid all non-essential international travel,” it continued. “A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential.”
Those 28 students are now in isolation while the others are under quarantine while being “monitored and tested.”
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott joined the legions of healthcare professionals warning young people to take this virus seriously.
“The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying,“ Dr. Escott said. “While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
In late March, as many as five spring breakers returned to college and tested positive for COVID-19. This was after videos and news reports showed Florida beaches crowded with young people, all of whom seemed convinced that the pandemic was no big deal.
“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying,” one spring breaker, who later publicly apologized, told reporters. “You know, we’ve been waiting, I’ve been waiting, for Miami spring break for a while, about two months we’ve had this trip planned. And we’re just out here having a good time. Whatever happens, happens.”
Another spring breaker said: “It’s really messing up my spring break. What is there to do here other than go to bars or the beach? And they’re closing all of it. I think they’re blowing it out of proportion. I think it’s doing way too much.”
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, said that young people who get the virus can also spread it much faster than the elderly because they are far more social.
“Young people do get sick, but more importantly they are carriers and get infected just like everyone. And they carry it to more places. They often see way more people … than someone who is older in their homes or a nursing home,” Feigl-Ding said. “It’s not just age, but risk factors that you have. For example, cardiovascular risk factors, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and of course all your lung diseases like bronchitis, asthma… and of course if you’re a smoker, which many young people are.”