A poorly timed spring break trip to Mexico resulted in 64 coronavirus cases, including one-third of the Texas college students who went on the trip in the middle of the pandemic, American researchers announced in a report issued on Wednesday, June 24.
The trip made headlines in March after the number of infections among those 183 travelers began to rise following their return from Cabo San Lucas, a resort city in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.
The group, all students at the University of Texas at Austin, ignored the U.S. government’s repeated warnings against non-essential travel and large gatherings when they boarded a chartered flight toward Mexico on March 14.
Upon their return, 60 students and four people who had contact with them in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19, according to a team of researchers at UT Austin. Fortunately, none of the patients died or experienced severe symptoms, the university said in a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers said the group’s age and good health helped prevent a more serious outbreak, but they also credited a coordinated response by the university and the local health department that focused on contact tracing and aggressive testing.
“Contact tracing and testing of close contacts, regardless of symptoms, is important in limiting spread, especially in young and healthy populations living in shared housing and in controlling future COVID-19 outbreaks that might occur as schools and universities consider reopening,” they wrote in the report.
The mid-March trip was organized by Nevada-based JusCollege, a company that repeatedly encouraged students not to cancel their spring break and initially refused to offer refunds despite growing concerns with the spread of coronavirus.
UT Austin sophomore Ross Fisher, who was on the trip, said it was a difficult decision because he had spent thousands of dollars on it and had to work a second job to pay for it.
“It’s the most expensive trip I’ve personally ever gone on,” he told ABC affiliate KVUE at the time.
Text messages reveal travel company urged students to go on spring break despite coronavirus
Wednesday’s report also notes that identifying asymptomatic patients is crucial to controlling potential outbreaks. About one-fifth of the spring breakers who tested positive never experienced any symptoms, according to the report.
“Asymptomatic persons or those with mild symptoms likely play an important role in sustaining (coronavirus) transmission during outbreaks, especially in younger populations, such as the one described here,” researchers wrote. “The high prevalence of asymptomatic persons underscores the importance of testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons after a known COVID-19 exposure.”
The most commonly reported symptoms among those 64 people were cough, sore throat, headache, and loss of sense of smell or taste, the report states. Only six of them reported having a fever.
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