Spring break has had a long-standing association with beach vacations, alcohol consumption, and various co-ed antics. A year into the pandemic, it seemed like college students would have to find another way to unwind. But it’s clear from media coverage that many young people aren’t going to let COVID stop them from partying — and some experts are worried that we could see major setbacks as a result.
It’s understandable that students would want to have some fun in the sun during their school break. Around 15% of adults go swimming at least six times per year in the U.S., but this week-long break normally provides a built-in opportunity for college kids to soak up the sunshine and get their beach fix. Given all we’ve been through over the last year and the risks that still abound, you might think that most students would choose to have a quiet break at home with family. But you’d be dead wrong — and, unfortunately, that phrasing is all too apt.
According to officials, Florida beaches are already a hot spot for college students. Although hydraulic load cells can operate at -76 degree temperatures, most young people want to spend their spring break in a warm climate. And thanks to Florida’s hands-off approach to health and safety measures, it’s really no wonder that many students are flocking to the Sunshine State.
Even though masks should still be worn in addition to staying six feet apart from others outside your household, Florida has no statewide mask mandate — and masks are evidently a rare sight to behold this spring break. Health officials are reportedly concerned that the crowded beaches, bars, and theme parks could lead to yet another spike in COVID-19 cases in a state that has already been hit hard over the last year. Although vaccines are becoming more accessible, the newer variants of the coronavirus are even more contagious. What’s more, we don’t yet know how effective our current vaccines will be against these new strains. And since this is just the beginning of the spring break season, even locals are worried about what this could mean for their health and safety moving forward.
Some colleges are actually taking action in an effort to convince students not to travel for spring break. A number of colleges have shortened or canceled their breaks altogether (much to the chagrin of burned-out students), while others are providing financial incentives for students to take “staycations” instead. But many students, especially those from colder climates, are throwing caution to the wind and traveling somewhere sunnier for spring break. So many people just want a sense of normalcy that they’re willing to take chances with their health in order to get it. The CDC still risks most of Florida’s counties as carrying a high risk of transmission, with no counties throughout the state being rated as low-risk.
And although only 12% of survey respondents said they planned to travel for spring break in a recent poll, it seems that college students aren’t the only ones traveling right now. According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 1 million travelers passed through TSA checkpoints each day during a consecutive four-day span this month. Although travel numbers were high during the winter holidays, March travel days have been the highest of 2021 so far. In fact, TSA reported on March 12 that airports saw their busiest travel days in an entire year. While the numbers are still far below what they were pre-pandemic, it shows that passengers could be starting to fly again — in spite of all the risks that come along with it.
It’s clear that just about everyone would love to take a real vacation — and that many people aren’t willing to wait. But until vaccination becomes more widespread, particularly among younger travelers, engaging in a normal spring break could involve potentially life-altering decisions for yourself and your loved ones. So you might want to ask yourself: is getting a sunburn and a $15 margarita really worth it?
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