Covid-19 and spring break have never mixed well. Last March, a shirtless young man in Miami who wore a green cap backwards went “viral” in the pre-pandemic sense when told a reporter: “If I get a crown, I get a crown,” he said. “I’m not going to let that stop me from partying.”
A year later, even after Covid has killed more than 500,000 Americans, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended not traveling, similar images and videos of Spring Break, without masks or social distancing to the sight, they are seeing each other again this year.
“Florida hasn’t lost a beat,” a Michigan college student told the Solar Sentinel the environment in Fort Lauderdale. The newspaper said the student was not concerned about the virus and said “we are not in the risk group.”
Despite the Covid vaccine being rolled out, the virus is still spreading in many parts of the country, albeit in lower numbers than the increase seen during the winter. Florida, the # 1 Spring Break Destination in the U.S., Receives Over 4,000 new cases of Covid per day, however, hotels in Miami are expecting hotel occupancy reaches 70%, only 15% less than the time before the pandemic.
“Cases may be declining, but there is a lot of Covid to circulate among people,” said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida.
Prins said the popularity of partying and drinking in large crowds during spring break makes it conducive to the spread of the virus.
“You drink a lot and people are more likely to let go of their inhibitions. That means they will be more likely to remove their masks, less likely to maintain a physical distance from other people, ”Prins said.
“Even the simple act of eating and drinking, you take off your mask to do that. That also puts you at higher risk, especially in a crowded bar or restaurant. “
Although many restaurants and bars were closed for Spring Break last year, the doors are back open this year thanks to state orders. Even when Florida peaked in new cases in January, the state has been in its third phase of reopening since September, meaning restaurants and bars can open at least 50% capacity.
While cities and towns grapple directly with the consequences of an increase in the spread of Covid-19, they have less power to enforce public health measures that would slow the spread of the virus as spring break rolls around. A executive order Republican Governor Ron DeSantis prohibits local Covid-19 emergency orders from reducing the capacity of bars below 50%, except in rare exceptions. Localities are also unable to enforce mask mandates, which has been a stress point between some mayors of the state and DeSantis.
Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach, a city on an island directly east of the city of Miami, said the city has resorted to handing out masks to visitors to encourage the wearing of masks. Policies such as a midnight curfew and a ban on music in places with ambient noise have been put in place to discourage loud parties. Still, Miami Beach has increased its police and code enforcement presence in anticipation of an influx of travelers.
“The problem is that it is very cheap to take a flight [to Florida], rooms are available at discounts, people have been locked up and there is hardly any other place to go, ”Gelber said. “I don’t think we are anywhere near the fulfillment that we would like. We cannot impose fines on our masks mandate, and it seems that many of the people who come here are overwhelmingly not concerned at all. “
Colleges and universities have taken some of the responsibility for trying to curb spring break travel and parties. Many schools, including some of the larger state schools such as Ohio State University and Texas A&M University, canceled spring break altogether, opting to extend winter break and give students “wellness days” during all semester.
Still, some schools have kept their spring break. Some have asked students to avoid traveling during their week off, even giving students incentives to stay on campus through on-campus events. The University of California at Davis offers 750 students a $ 75 “vacation home” stipend to spend on local businesses if they remain on campus during breaks.
Many college students will follow the guidelines of their schools, grateful to have some free time after intense periods.
Samantha Mejia, a junior at the University of California at Davis, said volunteer commitments keep her on campus during spring break, but other students, at best, plan to drive home for the week.
“Nobody is traveling much,” Mejía said. “In general, the students here are safe.”
Kate Whitaker, a sophomore at the University of Chicago, said the school sent emails to students and their parents urging them to stay on campus during their spring break, telling students that if they plan to travel, they will have to wear quarantined once they return. to campus. Whitaker plans to stay in Chicago for his vacation, taking the time to relax after a busy semester.
“We are so grateful … to have that time to do nothing because it seems like we are always at school, especially now that everything is online,” Whitaker said.
Although grateful for the free time, some students on spring break are concerned about classmates who decide to travel.
Lily Hernandez, a junior at the University of Texas at Austin who plans to stay on campus over spring break, said friends with face-to-face classes have overheard conversations from people planning to travel to places like Miami for spring break. .
“It definitely worries me a bit knowing that I’m taking the precautions and just going to work, and that a bunch of students are going to different places,” he said. “It will just make me more cautious going to campus to study, and maybe I’ll stay home for the next few weeks.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism