More than two dozen spring breakers from the University of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus after returning home from a week and a half of partying in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
A group of roughly 70 students in their 20s had chartered a plane for Cabo about 10 days ago, the Austin Public Health Department said in a statement Tuesday. Officials said that some of the students took separate commercial flights back to the United States, which may have led to further spread of the virus.
Upon return, public health officials said that 28 students have tested positive for COVID-19, while dozens more are under public health investigation. Four students who tested positive were asymptomatic.
The students were not under a federal or state travel advisory at the time, noted KVUE-TV reporter Tony Plohetski. But at the time of their departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had released guidance to limit "nonessential" international travel.
"A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential," Austin public health officials said in the statement.
Spring breakers have been scrutinized for ignoring social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite warnings from public officials, college students on vacation have been packing beaches in Florida, Texas, and abroad, choosing to party with friends rather than self-isolate.
Last week, the University of Tampa announced that at least five students had tested positive for the virus after traveling with other students to party over spring break.
The difficulty in the situation is that while young people appear to be less affected by the disease, by not cooperating with guidelines they risk contracting it and transmitting it to those who are more at-risk, such as people over 60 or people with underlying health conditions.
"The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying," said Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott. "While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19."
University and public health officials reported that they have made contact with every spring breaker onboard the chartered flight to Cabo and are undergoing investigation to track the spread.