Spring breakers return to Austin with fond memories and positive results for COVID-19

Spring breakers return to Austin with fond memories and positive results for COVID-19

In another case of spring break gone wild, a group of young adults from Texas came back from spring break with some rough news: They tested positive for coronavirus. About 70 adults in their 20s returned from a spring break trip in Mexico on March 19. Twenty-eight from the University of Texas at Austin have tested positive for COVID-19 since their return, health officials confirmed on Tuesday. According to the Austin Public Health Department, the group had departed together in a chartered plane, but some flew back on separate commercial flights. While four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms before testing positive, “dozens more are under public health investigation,” the department said.

Mexico was not under a federal travel advisory while the spring breakers were gone; however, city officials said Austin residents should abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel guidelines that specify that individuals should refrain from all unnecessary international travel. The officials noted that this message should be applied to all ages and they encourage individuals to stay home. “A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential,” health officials said. In a statement, the Austin city health department confirmed that it has contacted every spring break attendee on the chartered plane after receiving flight manifests from the CDC. In addition, the agency confirmed that all “28 confirmed cases are self-isolating at this time,” while others are being monitored and tested.

While it is unclear whether the spring breakers contracted the virus in Mexico or upon their return, the Los Cabos Trust—which runs tourism sites including the resort the young adults stayed at—said the group departed on March 11 and insisted the virus was contracted after their departure, Reuters reported. “Twenty days after their return to Austin, Texas, they had already passed the incubation period established by the World Health Organization,” the Los Cabos Trust said in a statement, according to Reuters. In a news conference, the health minister for Baja California Sur, the peninsula where the trust is located, added that since no workers where the group stayed have tested positive, “it’s proven” the group was infected later.

News of the group testing positive follows nationwide reports of spring breakers refusing to follow CDC guidelines and continuing to enjoy massive gatherings, traveling, and partying. Viral photos and videos of college students shared by local media caused widespread anger as many young adults seemed to think they were immune to the virus. Amongst them was a student from Ohio who made the comment: “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying. We’re just out here having a good time. Whatever happens, happens.” While the student, Brady Sluder, publicly apologized on social media following his viral comment, the backlash continues against young adults who refuse to stay indoors and practice social distancing recommendations.

A spokesman from the University of Texas at Austin, J.B. Bird, told USA Today that the university is working closely with the Austin Public Health Department and is aware of other students and faculty who have tested positive for the virus or have self-reported symptoms. “The incident is a reminder of the vital importance of taking seriously the warnings of public health authorities on the risks of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others,” Bird said. Bird added that schools are closed and students have returned to their homes, therefore new cases may be reported to their local authorities as opposed to the university.

New data has proven that coronavirus does not discriminate by age; according to a report from the CDC, up to 20% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are between the ages of 20 and 44. “The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying,“ Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, said. “While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19.” According to the Austin Public Health Department, data figures show that almost half of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the county are between 20 and 40 years old. While the main concern for health officials regarding young adults is the risk of them spreading the virus to others, that does not mean otherwise healthy young people do not experience severe symptoms of COVID-19, the department said.

Days after the spring breakers returned home, the city of Austin issued a stay-at-home order on March 24 to be effective until April 13, which requires individuals to remain at home and many nonessential businesses to close. Residents can only engage in essential work and activities and must follow social distancing guidelines when doing so. According to NBC News, as of Tuesday Texas has 3,403 reported cases of COVID-19, including 54 deaths.

It is essential for individuals to remember that no one is immune to this disease. Individuals with and without prior health conditions are being infected increasingly each day. The virus can spread in a multitude of ways and it is important to follow CDC guidelines not only for yourself, but to ensure you’re not transmitting the virus to others. Stay inside, listen to your health care providers, and help flatten the curve. Seeing friends and traveling can wait, but efforts to stop the spread of this disease and the importance of your health can’t.

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