Despite the ongoing pandemic, COVID isn’t stopping spring break with flights and airports full.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Ongoing
Though daily case numbers have been dropping (yesterday was about 41,000, on par with September 2020), COVID-19 cases and deaths are still high. Health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made it clear that the country must remain vigilant. That advice includes maintaining mask mandates, social distancing, and avoiding travel even for those who have been vaccinated.
International return travel to the United States continues to require a negative COVID-19 test and an additional mandatory 10-day quarantine. Airlines have collected voluntary contact tracing from passengers (a simple form with tick boxes within the United Airlines app facilitates this.)
Germany and Italy are preparing for further waves.
Spring Break in Full Swing
Airports hubs Houston, and Dallas were jam-packed this week. It appears that few have canceled spring break travel for public health concerns. While not close to pre-pandemic levels, the TSA announced that they screened more passengers this week than they have since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Spring break destinations in Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, and Destin, Florida have been particularly popular this year as it avoids some of the international requirements. From pictures, newsreels, and personal accounts, few spring breakers appear to be wearing masks.
For many travelers, this week marks one year since serious COVID-19 restrictions took place. It’s been a tough one, not just for the virus, its toll on families and victims, but also on the economy. Students at all levels have adjusted to distance-learning as have their parents. At higher educational institutions like the University of Texas-Austin, going online was easier this year, than for K-12 families who had to stay home with their kids struggling with a new model of learning and interaction.
In the one year where everyone needed, perhaps deserved, a vacation and had the time away from work to take it – they couldn’t. It seems that many of those families, workers, and students have decided that the coast is finally clear enough to re-enter the world.
Stay Home, Stay Safe
It’s possible that solely travelers who throw caution into the wind are out traveling for spring break but unlikely. Despite President Biden’s statement that maybe by July 4th we can all gather with friends in the backyard without a mask “not large events with lots of people” has fallen on deaf ears.
Texas reopened and so did some 2o other states.
Flight prices, hotel rates, and rental car availability in key areas appear to confirm what the TSA, and anyone in an airport this week have confirmed, college students and families are not staying home, staying safe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and others have been clear that even with the vaccine in place, leisure travel should not resume until daily cases drop.
“Getting vaccinated does not say you have a free pass to travel,” said Dr. Fauci. “Nor does it say you have a free pass to put aside all the public health measures that we talk about all the time.”
However, it seems as though those who have been vaccinated have a renewed sense of travel ambition.
If there’s a further positive test result spike following spring break – and there may be – it could make the road to recovery harder. However, if there’s not a substantial spike following these few weeks of travel, it will make it harder for travel restrictions to remain in place and justify continued lockdowns and lockouts of schools, businesses, federal facilities.
About 20% of Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and while it’s unknown how long antibodies last, at least 29 million more Americans likely have some level of immunity against the virus. With about 30% of the country operating with some level of viral protection, it’s hard to say whether spring break will be a resurgence of the disease or the tipping point that returned us all to normal. Regardless, spring break is in full swing reghardless of COVID-19.
What do you think? Are you traveling for spring break? Do you think this is a return to normalcy or a resurgence of cases?