Two weeks ago, amid the coronavirus outbreak, a group of 70 people in their 20s chartered a plane from Austin, Texas, to Mexico for spring break. Now, 44 of them have tested positive for coronavirus according to CNN affiliate KXAN.
The group took a private plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for spring break. However, some of the group took commercial airlines back, leading to fears that they may have exposed further members of the public.
On Wednesday, the University of Texas at Austin confirmed that 44 members of the group, all of whom are students at the university, have since tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, only 28 of the 70 had tested positive.
Austin Public Health (APH) is now monitoring the group, and all of those who haven't tested positive are also under quarantine. APH said that there was no federal travel advisory for Mexico when the trip took place, but there was advice to avoid all nonessential international travel.
“The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying,” APH Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said. “While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19,” he said.
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen delivered a blunt message to the spring breakers in an interview. "Get over yourselves," he said. "Whether you think this is an issue or not, it is. Whether you think it could affect you or not, it does. The reality of it is, if I'm a college kid who's going to spring break in Mexico, you're affecting a lot of people. Grow up."
J.B. Bird, director of media relations at the university, said in a statement: "The university is working closely with Austin Public Health to assist in contact tracing. 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."
While University President Gregory L. Fenves added: "(It) is our responsibility to follow local, state and national public health orders, and use good judgment during this crisis. Our conduct and the decisions we make have direct ramifications on our own health and the health of everyone in our city and beyond. We must do everything we can to limit the spread of this virus -- the consequences of reckless actions at this time could not be clearer."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attracted criticism for not shutting down beaches to spring breakers across the state despite the coronavirus outbreak. Local officials in Florida towns and cities shut down beaches themselves, as the governor limited gatherings to 10 people.
"So what you've seen now is a lot of the sheriff's departments have instituted protocols … Cocoa Beach, major spring break destination went down 70% since my order. And so, I think that's a more prudent approach to do social distancing," the governor said.
“Since I issued my directive, anybody who's put that in place, spring break’s done. Any place to go for bars and all this are done. They don't have a place to go.”
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.