How Spring Break Raised COVID Numbers
With the COVID vaccine coming out, more people are loosening up on following the guidelines and safety protocols put in place by the government to reduce the spread of the virus. One of the biggest areas we saw people turn a blind eye to COVID protocols was spring break. This year, even with the pandemic, the population of spring breakers swarming Florida beaches was nothing short of regular years, meaning a ton of opportunity of exposure. Now yes, most traveled safely, wearing masks and social distancing, but when it came to walking around, going to the beach, shopping and restaurants, there were numerous reports of people acting like the COVID didn’t even exist.
Before spring break happened, Forbes produced an article titled, “Spring Break Could Trigger a National Surge In Cases Fueled by Variants”. The article highlighted how thousands of students and families planned to travel across the country for spring break despite the CDC’s non-essential travel warning. According to data from TSA, over a million people traveled through US airports for at least eleven days in a row, the largest number recorded since the pandemic hit. A highly concentrated portion of the million went to Florida. Currently, there is a more dangerous variant of COVID-19 allowing the virus to spread faster than ever known as the B.1.1.7 variant, and over half of Florida’s cases after spring break are represented by the variant. Local officials in Florida believe that the chance of being exposed to COVID at any spring break party in Florida was close to 100%, but police had no way to enforce safe behavior effectively and safely.
Even though the COVID vaccines are out and being distributed, less than 13% of the general US population has been vaccinated, which is not an ideal number to increase travel . Furthermore, we don’t even know how effective the vaccines are and if the variants will adapt to it. In fact, a recent study by PrePrint determined the estimated strength and length of immune protection given by seven different vaccines over time, and the results suggested that the more protective a vaccine is immediately following immunization, the longer protection will last. So if we think about a timeline, people who got the vaccine and who went on spring break had not been vaccinated long enough to be fully protected by it, risking exposure still.
All in all, yes, spring break did allow COVID cases to rise, but since it was around the same time as the vaccines came out, people were starting to relax on restrictions anyway. But everyone needs to be conscious and aware about traveling from now on because while the vaccine is a huge step forward, we’re not out of the woods yet with this pandemic.