AUSTIN, Texas —UPDATE [Apr. 4] — The University of Texas at Austin has now identified more than 200 students who traveled to Cabo San Lucas for Spring Break — up from approximately 70 who were confirmed last week.
Of those, the university says 49 have tested positive for COVID-19.
"Although that total may still rise in days to come, it is thought that any further additions will be minimal, due to the low number of people potentially remaining to be tested from the UT Austin cluster," read a statement from the university.
Of the 211 students who traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico between March 14th and 19th, 178 booked their trip through travel vendor JusCollege and 33 made independent arrangements.
The 49 COVID-19 cases were confirmed as of April 3.
"UT Austin urges JusCollege to reach out to the other universities whose students took part in their organized trips to ensure the level of contact tracing and outreach necessary to support the health of the participants and the communities they returned to," stated the university.
For people with positive tests, health officials directed self-isolation for a minimum of seven days from symptom onset and at least two days past the resolution of symptoms, according to the university. People who were asymptomatic and had a negative test result were directed to self-quarantine for 14 days from last exposure, following established public health protocols.
“This incident is an urgent reminder of the responsibilities students have to their communities, each other and themselves,” stated Soncia Reagins-Lilly, the university’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “We are deeply concerned for the health of the students affected and for their broader impact on the communities where they live.”
UPDATE [Apr. 2] — The number of Austin-area individuals who recently returned from a Spring Break trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and tested positive for COVID-19 has increased to 44, up from 28 on Tuesday.
ORIGINAL [Mar. 31] — Health officials are investigating a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases after 28 of 70 "Spring Breakers" returned to Austin, Texas, from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, according to Austin Public Health.
On March 14, 2020, approximately 70 adults in their 20s departed Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on a charter flight with a majority also returning by charter flight on March 19. Airport officials say the individuals did go through the airport's main terminals on departure and arrival.
"Currently, 28 young adults on this trip have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more are under public health investigation," read a statement from APH. "Four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms."
"Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin and University Health Services have made contact with every spring breaker onboard the plane using flight manifests from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)," continued, in part, the statement. "The 28 confirmed cases are self-isolating at this time. Others are under quarantine while being monitored and tested."
Figures show nearly half of those testing positive for COVID-19 in Austin-Travis County are between the ages of 20 and 40, according to APH.
“The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying,“ Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said. “While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
Mexico was not under a federal travel advisory at the time but, despite this, health officials are reinforcing their message that people of all ages should stay home and avoid non-essential travel — with leisure vacations of any kind being considered non-essential.
"Many of those involved were UT Austin students," read a statement from the university. "The university is working closely with Austin Public Health to assist in contact tracing."
"The incident is a reminder of the vital importance of taking seriously the warnings of public health authorities on the risks of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others," continued the university's statement.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has been notified of the cluster.
Complete statement from UT Austin:
Many of those involved were UT Austin students. The university is working closely with Austin Public Health to assist in contact tracing. The incident is a reminder of the vital importance of taking seriously the warnings of public health authorities on the risks of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others. UT Health Austin is a group practice designed and managed by the faculty and staff of the Dell Medical School. It serves an array of clients. University Health Services provides medical care and patient education to students at The University of Texas at Austin, and it is part of the university’s Division of Student Affairs. Both organizations are working closely with Austin Public Health.
Additional information from Austin Public Health:
While COVID-19 causes only mild illness for most people, it poses a significant danger to vulnerable populations, including older people and those who have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, immunodeficiency disease, diabetes, and lung disease. Across the United States, people aged 65 and over make up almost half (45%) of hospitalizations and 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19, according to CDC.
For people who are young and healthy, the chief public health concern is the risk that they will spread the virus to others. In Austin-Travis County, the number of people 65 and over is estimated to be 132,000 – about 10% of the population. At the same time, it is also dangerously misguided for young and healthy individuals to believe that they won’t suffer severe symptoms if infected with COVID-19 – as of March 16, 20% of all COVID-19 related hospitalizations in the United States were among those age 20-44.
This outbreak emerged well after the City of Austin and Travis County stepped up actions to protect those most susceptible to catching and being hospitalized by COVID-19. A new Austin Public Health Task Force for Nursing Homes is setting up nursing home isolation facilities to provide COVID-19 patients with a secure place to recover while keeping other nursing home residents and staff safe.
Hospitals are currently restricting visitors and family members in the facility. Make sure to write down your medical information, including height, weight, current medications, allergies, and medical history. If you have particular wishes regarding your medical care, please write those down and discuss with family members.
Austin Public Health is continuing to ask the wider community to take daily preventative actions to stop the spread of disease, including:
- Wash your hands.
- Cover sneezes and coughs with a bent elbow or tissue.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Stay home and save lives. Only go out for essential needs if you are well with no symptoms.
- If you are a caretaker, be sure to establish a plan in the event you are sick.
For more information, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.