- The coronavirus isn’t putting a dent in some college students’ spring break plans.
- They’re crowding the beaches in Florida and Texas that remain open, and partying it up on booze cruises in The Bahamas.
- Low-risk groups like young, healthy people can be asymptomatic – and contribute to the spread of coronavirus even if they feel fine.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Florida and Texas, two spring break hot spots, offer an array of beaches for college students looking to let loose and de-stress from school for a week. But their popularity makes these beaches very crowded – and potentially not in line with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendation to limit gatherings to less than 50 people.
Clearwater, Florida, received heavy backlash this week after videos showed it was packed with thousands of beachgoers. On Monday, Clearwater Beach will temporarily shut down, joining the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Tampa that are now completely closed to the public. But other beaches in Florida remain open for spring breakers. As of Thursday morning, Florida has 322 known infected cases of coronavirus and Texas has 220.
South Padre Island, Texas, is also still seeing a strong spring break turnout. On Wednesday, a Michigan couple in their 60s who traveled there this month tested positive for COVID-19.
But students are also traveling internationally. In the Bahamas, where there are currently three known cases of the coronavirus, a recent video showed spring breakers partying it up on a booze cruise.
Here’s what spring break looks like in the US and beyond right now.
Are you on spring break right now, or have you had any spring break plans canceled suddenly because of the coronavirus? Email this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.
Spring break has come to a screeching halt in some cities. On Sunday, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, both shut down the party to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
- Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images
Florida officials in Miami and Fort Lauderdale worked together to devise a plan so each city’s regulations wouldn’t send an influx of spring breakers to the other city, Susannah Bryan for the Sun Sentinel reported.
Those regulations include shutting down the most popular parts of each city’s beaches, limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery only, and implementing an 11 p.m. curfew.
The regulations have left the usually crowded beaches eerily empty — and some spring breakers very disappointed. “It’s extremely upsetting because most students only get one spring break,” 21-year-old Gabby Porter told Business Insider.
- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
“I am a senior and booked this trip months ago,” Porter, who was in Miami for spring break, said. “Unfortunately, coronavirus is really serious and I understand the restrictions – it’s just really sad.”
The beaches were still packed until the shutdown.
Dryden Quigley, a college junior, told The New York Times she was vacationing in Miami Beach for spring break when the mayor enforced the regulations. “It’s been overwhelming – every day there is something else,” she said. “I started off pretty excited about hanging on the beach. Now I am on edge and nervous about the traveling.”
But that’s not the case in other popular spring break destinations, where college students are still partying it up.
Not all of Florida’s beaches are closed. A series of photos by The Associated Press show spring breakers living it up in Pompano Beach — just north of Fort Lauderdale — on Tuesday.
But on Wednesday, Pompano Beach, along with nearby beaches Deerfield Beach and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, was shut down by city officials for an indefinite period of time, according to Michelle Solomon for Local10 News.
And a video on Twitter from Monday showed beaches in Clearwater, Florida, packed with spring breakers. It promptly sparked a lot of backlash.
- Steve Nesius/Reuters
Local outlet WFLA News tweeted the video. Local reporter Sarah J. Hollenback for ABC Action News also shared photos of a packed Clearwater Beach that day, tweeting out, “BUSY BEACH!”
On Tuesday, Clearwater city officials announced they were temporarily closing Pier 60 and its spring break camps “out of an abundance of caution” but that its shores remain open to the public, reported Doha Madani for NBC News.
In response, Clearwater’s City Council announced that starting Monday, March 23, it will close the beaches for two weeks. “Don’t kid yourself because we’ve only got (10) cases in Pinellas County,” Mayor George Cretekos said Wednesday. “It’s going to go up.”
- Steve Nesius/Reuters
This decision breaks from Tuesday’s unified stance by the city leaders of Pinellas County, where Clearwater is located, according to The Tampa Bay Times. Tampa, too, has closed beaches to the public.
“This is an opportunity for the number one beach in the country to say that we value public health,” Cretekos said. “I don’t want it to come back and haunt us to say it happened here because Clearwater was not willing to stick its neck out and and be a leader.”
Panama City Beach, too, is crowded with spring breakers. One of them, 21-year-old Jawontae Rodgers, told a local news outlet he didn’t think the virus was a “big deal.”
— Jenny Smith (@EmilySm34089557) March 17, 2020
“I’m not saying I can’t die from it,” Rodgers, a 21-year-old Panama City Beach spring breaker, told Valerie Crowder of local outlet WFSU. “I just don’t want to stop living my life because you only have one. YOLO: You only live once.”
Panama City Beach “is an infamous spring break destination for college students and young people,” Madani wrote. City officials in Panama City said Tuesday they have no plans to close the beaches there. The council prohibited all public gatherings consisting of more than 10 people and cancelled special events through May 1.
College students were also partying it up in Daytona Beach, where officials said they’re keeping beaches open for now.
Local officials decided on Tuesday to keep beaches of Daytona Beach open, according to Jim Abbott for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, but gave authorities the right to close ramps to the beach if it was becoming too crowded.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis isn’t issuing orders to close all of Florida’s beaches. On Tuesday, he signed an order that will limit beach parties to 10 people per group and closed all bars and nightclubs in the state for 30 days.
DeSantis is leaving the decision to shut down beaches in the hands of local Florida governments. “We’ve seen some big crowds on the west coast of Florida and I’ve had a chance to speak to mayors on both coast today,” DeSantis said, according to WFLA. “If … they want to continue to [leave the beach open], we want them to have the freedom to do that, but we also want them to have the freedom to do more if they see fit.”
That explains why some beaches – like Miami and Fort Lauderdale – are closed while others – like Panama City – remain open.
On Thursday, DeSantis said “The party is over” for spring breakers. While he didn’t close down beaches statewide, he said they would have to comply with the CDC’s virus prevention guidelines.
But Florida isn’t the only place where spring breakers are choosing not to abide by social distancing guidelines. South Padre Island in Texas is “extremely packed,” Marissa, a 29-year-old local, told Business Insider. “Nothing has changed since this coronavirus pandemic.”
She tweeted that it’s taken more than three hours to cross the two-mile bridge to the island: “Here at South Padre Island, it is PACKED.”
The island has been popping with spring breakers all week, according to Bloomberg.
— Greg Pollak (@GregPollak) March 15, 2020
Clayton Brashear, who owns spring break hot spot Clayton’s Beach Bar in the area, told Anders Melin of Bloomberg he expected an influx of visitors the week of March 16 since several big colleges in Texas are on spring break.
Isla Grand Beach Resort in South Padre told Melin spring break occupancy is “still strong,” although slightly lower than previous years.
Kade Noennig, a college sophomore, told Business Insider he didn’t originally think about the coronavirus before his South Padre Island spring break. “Nothing was shut down and there were no precautions,” he said. “I didn’t really hear about coronavirus until I got home.”
Noennig was on the island from March 8 to March 11. His spring break began before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.
“Halfway through the trip is when we started noticing things closing,” he said. “Our spring break was extended and we were all confused about it. Then the NBA and NCAA got canceled.”
After getting home and hearing more about the pandemic, Noennig said, “I was maybe a little worried but me and none of my friends have felt any symptoms.”
Meanwhile, Josie Asleson, a 20-year-old college sophomore who was also in South Padre for spring break, told Business Insider that the area has been emptying out throughout the week.
“It has been insane here,” Asleson said. “The first couple days here were fricken wild but let me tell you, as the week has gone on, we have lost so many party people due to restaurants and bars closing, police restrictions, and fear in general.”
“I just don’t want to get anyone sick because we’ve all been doing everything we shouldn’t,” Aselson said.
“We’re not worried about it — we’ve been drinking Coronas all day, bro,” a South Padre spring breaker told local station KRGV-TV.
Picture of Spring Break on South Padre last night. Time for a legally mandated, required shutdown of our country. pic.twitter.com/XW0aUwsjVO
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 15, 2020
According to KRGV, students have been visiting from the Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and west coast for weeks.
Crowds were “noticeably smaller” than previous years, reported Sandra Sanchez for local outlet Kxan, but many of the young people interviewed weren’t too concerned with the coronavirus.
College students were also seen raging at concerts and DJ sets at the beach in Port Aransas, near South Padre Island.
- Sabrina Palacios/YouTube
On Monday, both South Padre Island and Port Aransas city officials separately declared a local state of disaster and banned gatherings exceeding 50 people for seven days.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott had declared a state of disaster for all Texas counties in the state on Friday. Authorities, he said, are taking “proactive measures” to prevent the spread of the virus.
While he’s enacted restrictions for visits to places like nursing homes and hospitals, Melin wrote for Bloomberg, it doesn’t include restrictions for coastal spots that spring breakers love.
South Padre locals had called for action to contain the coronavirus spread, Sanchez reported. “This has not been an easy decision,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said. “I recognize the hardships this declaration may have on many of our citizens. I make this decision for the greater good of the county.”
He added that he anticipates the beaches of South Padre County to soon be closed.
Source: KII TV
As of Wednesday, a Michigan couple who traveled to South Padre Island tested positive for COVID-19. They were last on the island on March 11.
They had traveled to Idaho in late February and early March for a wedding where they came in contact with someone who tested positive, according to Paolo Cepeda for local Michigan outlet 4ValleyCentral.
The couple is in their late 60s.
Spring break also appears to still be in full swing in at least one place outside the US. A recent Facebook video showed college students partying on a 250-person “booze cruise” in Nassau, Bahamas.
- STS TRAVEL/Facebook
The video was posted by STS Travel, or Student Travel Services.
The cruise took place on March 16 – just one day after the island country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus.
Jake Jacobsen, vice president of STS Travel, told Business Insider’s Libertina Brandt that only 20% of the company’s customers, who typically range from ages 20 to 23, canceled their traveling plans after coronavirus was declared a global pandemic.
The students on the booze cruise will be headed back home from Nassau this week. They’re more concerned about getting back into the US rather than the outbreak itself, Jacobsen said.
Young people aren’t at high risk for the virus but can asymptomatically carry it, unknowingly infecting others.
“I just keep hearing how this affects mostly older people,” Kaitland Carter, a 19-year-old spring breaking in Fort Lauderdale before the beach shut down, told The Times. “And there were hardly any cases in Ohio when I left so I figured I could stay in my own zone and still have a good time.”
In a White House press conference on Monday, Deborah Birx, leader of President Trump’s virus response group, said millennials “are the core group that will stop this virus.”
According to Melin, she urged them “to hold their gatherings to under 10 people, not just in bars and restaurants, but in homes.”
“It’s important that we all work together, especially younger people, millennials,” Seema Verma, administrator at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, said. “They may feel healthy. They may feel like if I get this virus it’s not going to be that big of a deal, it’s just going to be like the flu, but the reality is they can contribute to the spread.”
But not all college students share the same mindset. “If I get corona, I get corona,” a Miami spring breaker had said in an interview with Global News. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”
- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Max Schulman, a college student who tested positive for coronavirus after a spring break trip to Spain, told Talia Kaplan of Fox News, “I think the people of my generation generally who are taking this more seriously are a little bit more plugged into the news right now.”