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Spring break could be a perfect storm for spreading coronavirus variants. Don't let that happen

Highly contagious variants will soon have a ridiculously easy chance to spread rapidly across the US.Spring break starts for hundreds of universities...

Posted: Mar 6, 2021 9:56 AM
Updated: Mar 6, 2021 1:00 PM

Highly contagious variants will soon have a ridiculously easy chance to spread rapidly across the US.

Spring break starts for hundreds of universities this month. And typical spring break revelry could lead to countless more Americans getting infected as coronavirus variants threaten to outpace vaccinations.

'It's the perfect storm,' Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

'You've got the B.1.1.7 variant accelerating in Florida. You've got all these 20-year-old kids. None of them are going to have masks. They're all going to be drinking. They're having pretty close, intimate contact. And then, after that's all done, they're going to go back to their home states and spread the B.1.1.7 variant.'

Some universities -- like Ohio State and State University of New York -- have canceled spring break to try to minimize new infections.

And the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently had a blunt message for all Americans: 'Don't travel,' Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. 'We really, really would advocate for not traveling right now.'

So college students who have a week of freedom can help make or break the next chapter in this pandemic. Here's what to know before going to a party or traveling to a spring break hot spot:

The B.1.1.7 strain is really, really contagious

Scientists are worried about several new variants circulating in the US. But Hotez is most worried about the B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the UK but has already spread to at least 44 US states.

Research shows that in the US, the variant is 59% to 74% more transmissible than the original novel coronavirus.

'Florida has the highest percentage of the B.1.1.7 UK variant,' Hotez said. 'Spring break in Florida could spell disaster for the country.'

Other states with popular beaches could also become launching pads for new outbreaks -- especially Texas and Mississippi, where governors lifted a mask mandate or will soon.

'A lot of (students) are going to go to South Texas as well, and that's also a concern,' said Hotez, who lives in Houston.

Hotez said the ditching of a mask mandate in his state will have a ripple effect across the country.

'It's going to accelerate Covid-19 nationally,' he said.

You can't count on a negative test result to be safe

Testing can lead to false-negative results, especially if you get tested too soon or late and don't strictly quarantine before and after your test.

And yes, you could be contagious even with no symptoms and a negative test result.

Young people definitely aren't immune

While young people may be more likely to be asymptomatic when infected, that also means they can easily spread the virus to friends and family without realizing it.

But even young, previously healthy adults have suffered long-lasting Covid-19 complications.

In one survey, 35% of Covid-19 survivors still had symptoms two to three weeks after their tests, according to a CDC study.

In the 18-to-34 age group, 26% said they still had symptoms weeks later.

Some young people have struggled with complications months after infection, such as shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, brain fog, long-term fever, coughing, memory loss and the inability to taste or smell.

You asked, we're answering: Your top questions about Covid-19 and vaccines

Alcohol plus parties often equal zero protection

Attempts to physically distance and wear masks typically go out the window at parties where alcohol is involved.

It's not just that drinking makes people take off their masks (if they're wearing one at all). Alcohol can cause people to get closer to one another than usual, Hotez said.

That's especially dangerous this spring break, when revelers at popular hot spots may not just be exposed to students from across the country -- they could also be exposed to variants or outbreaks from those parts of the country as well.

'So this is not the time to have a superspreader event for that UK variant, which is what spring break in Florida would look like,' Hotez said.

'This is not the time to be sending a bunch of 20-year-olds to Florida, then sending them back, disseminating it across the country.'

Pandemic fatigue is real -- but totally defeatable

Not celebrating spring break the way you want to this year may seem devastating. But there will be plenty more chances to party after everyone gets vaccinated.

'The best thing to do right now is to avoid big travel unless you've been vaccinated or unless you've been recently infected,' Hotez said. 'Just try to keep a lid on everything we can until we can fully vaccinate.'

Unfortunately, the vast majority of college students haven't been vaccinated against Covid-19. But there's some great news on the horizon:

-- If enough people get vaccinated, this will likely be the last year of major Covid-19 disruptions.

-- The current vaccines 'work really well' against the troubling B.1.1.7 variant, Hotez said.

-- President Joe Biden recently said an increase in supply means there could be enough vaccine for all American adults by the end of May.

-- The faster we vaccinate and get Covid-19 under control, the faster we can return to normal life.

'I know it's frustrating,' Hotez said. 'But try to maximize social distancing and masks, and this may be the last spring break that you have to give up.'

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 219755

Reported Deaths: 2858
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah41855618
Washington27838258
Marion24509333
Clackamas19964242
Lane14885174
Jackson12709156
Deschutes1056587
Umatilla958794
Linn627782
Yamhill507481
Klamath494479
Douglas451888
Polk431457
Josephine416975
Malheur366667
Benton347422
Jefferson249942
Coos231939
Columbia208732
Union169424
Wasco156131
Lincoln154422
Crook139924
Hood River126734
Morrow122917
Clatsop117610
Baker111517
Curry79112
Tillamook7605
Grant5637
Lake4868
Harney46011
Wallowa2396
Gilliam871
Sherman872
Wheeler441
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3966943

Reported Deaths: 64429
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles130334324691
Riverside3085464662
San Bernardino3067695240
San Diego2980023798
Orange2824265144
Santa Clara1234042099
Sacramento1157321781
Kern1132161425
Fresno1046391746
Alameda971211286
Ventura838691044
Contra Costa77708834
San Joaquin769151460
Stanislaus658931095
Tulare50409854
San Mateo44622588
Monterey44523528
San Francisco40544563
Solano36004263
Santa Barbara35741467
Merced33321485
Sonoma32880330
Imperial29164745
Placer25146307
Kings23765251
San Luis Obispo21970265
Madera17058249
Santa Cruz16616207
Marin14958239
Yolo14863215
Butte13235205
Shasta13043242
El Dorado11125120
Napa1044282
Sutter10203127
Yuba700450
San Benito628263
Tehama589266
Lassen588826
Nevada541675
Humboldt511453
Mendocino471052
Tuolumne453573
Lake423866
Amador387748
Siskiyou256640
Glenn246527
Colusa235718
Calaveras231658
Del Norte16688
Inyo147338
Mono13265
Plumas7726
Modoc5767
Mariposa5007
Trinity4676
Sierra1310
Alpine890
Unassigned660
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