College students have descended on Florida for spring break with Fort Lauderdale beaches packed with maskless revelers, sparking fears that another surge in COVID-19 infections could be on the horizon.
Partygoers flocked to beaches and bars in the Sunshine State this week for the annual tradition after Governor Ron DeSantis said he welcomed more visitors to help the economic recovery from the pandemic.
The influx of people has fueled concerns among hospitality workers serving the raucous crowds as they are yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccines and the state does not have a mask mandate in place.
In the popular Miami Beach area, an official is urging spring breakers looking for an ‘anything-goes party attitude’ to head to Las Vegas instead and has implemented tighter COVID-19 safety restrictions to try to prevent a repeat of the post-Thanksgiving holiday surge.
Fears of a resurgence of the virus comes as deaths and hospitalizations continue to decline across the US with another 1,743 Americans dying in the last day – less than half the daily death toll recorded one month ago.
College students have descended on Florida for spring break with Fort Lauderdale beaches packed with maskless revelers, sparking fears that another surge in COVID-19 infections could be on the horizon
People flock to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale Thursday to celebrate spring break in the Sunshine State
Nationwide, the number of people hospitalized with the virus has also dropped dramatically in the last month with 44,172 patients in hospitals across the US Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Just four states – New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and Georgia – are now recording more than 200 patients per million residents.
Back on February 4, more than half of all US states did and 12 had more than 300 patients per million residents.
The number of new cases remained static with 65,487 infections recorded Thursday, a slight dip from the 66,836 new cases reported the day before.
Though hospitalizations have fallen by more than half in several states and deaths are also in decline, Joe Biden and the CDC are urging Americans not to let down their guard as the nation continues to roll out the vaccine.
Several states are easing COVID-19 restrictions with the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi lifting all rules and mask mandates this week before most residents receive the vaccine.
The president slammed their ‘neanderthal’ decisions, warning that a relaxation of rules now could undo the downward trend in cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
Fears have been mounting that Texas could see a growth in cases after people were forced to huddle in warming shelters when rolling power blackouts left 4.3 million people without power and more than 14.6 million were left without access to safe drinking water during the deadly winter storms last month.
Now, Florida is being eyed as another cause for concern as spring breakers have stuck with tradition and headed to the beaches and bars of the Sunshine State despite infections still topping 65,000 per day nationwide.
Hordes of college students were spotted baking in the sunny weather on beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach and partying in popular bars with no masks in sight this week.
Revelers flocked to the beaches and bars for the annual tradition after Governor Ron DeSantis said he welcomed more visitors to help the economic recovery from the pandemic
The influx of people has fueled concerns among hospitality workers serving the raucous crowds as they are yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccines and the state does not have a mask mandate in place
College students have long enjoyed the beaches and bars of Florida for their annual getaway.
But the frivolities were disrupted last year as spring break coincided with much of the nation being plunged into lockdown as the pandemic ground America to a halt.
This year, Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach told WSVN 7 News the popular spot is bracing for a ‘larger than typical spring break’ as COVID-weary Americans head for the shores amid a fall in cases and hopes of vaccinations.
And partygoers have been given the blessing of Republican Governor DeSantis, who said in his State of the State speech in Tallahassee this week that he welcomes more visitors to come to Florida.
In the absence of statewide protocols, some areas are now enforcing their own stricter COVID-19 safety rules for the spring break period.
Miami Beach officials have introduced limits on the capacity of people on some public beaches and in parking garages, while drinking alcohol and setting up tents and coolers is banned on beaches.
Nationwide, the number of cases, deaths and hospitalisations has fallen since the start of the year, data shows
Just four states – New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and Georgia – are now recording more than 200 patients per million residents (left). Back on February 4, more than half of all US states did (right)
Fears of a resurgence of the virus comes as deaths and hospitalizations continue to decline across the US with another 1,743 Americans dying in the last day – less than half the daily death toll recorded one month ago
The rules are in place from February 22 through April 12 to cover the popular holiday season and there is a heavier police presence to enforce the rules.
Miami Beach’s city manager Raul Aguila told partygoers not willing to respect the restrictions to stay away from Florida altogether and head to Sin City instead.
‘If you are coming here with an anything-goes party attitude, change your flight reservation now and go to Vegas,’ Aguila said in a city council meeting.
‘Miami Beach is not going to tolerate anarchy.’
Aguila added in a press release that anyone not holidaying ‘responsibly’ will be arrested.
For the bar staff and waitresses working in the beach bars, the holiday season has led to fears of a sudden spike in cases.
A hostess at Kantina in Miami Beach told the Daily Beast the new visitors are not taking the virus seriously and may be posing a health risk to hospitality workers who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
‘I think Spring Break is going to be crazy and the cases are going to shoot up,’ Candelaria Mesa said.
‘People are out here partying and don’t take precautions seriously.’
She added: ‘I know people here who are older than me and one who has asthma that want [the vaccine]. And they should be able to get it.’
Hospitality workers are not yet able to get the vaccine in Florida where more than 31,000 people have died and 1.93 million have been infected.
Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and school staff aged 50 and older were added to the list of those who can now get the vaccine this week on top of frontline healthcare workers and seniors aged 65 and older already eligible.
DeSantis has not given a timeline for when restaurant and bar workers can get the shot.
In total, 15.8 percent of Floridians have had their first dose with 8.8 percent having had both their first and second.
Nationwide, more than 82 million doses have been administered with 16.3 percent of Americans now fully vaccinated and 8.4 percent having received their first dose.
Like much of the nation, COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations have been in decline since late January in Florida. Four Floridians died Wednesday from the virus compared to 172 one month ago on February 3.
However the virus is still present with 6,144 new cases Wednesday while University of Miami researchers have said the UK ‘super-COVID’ strain – which is more contagious – is responsible for around a quarter of new cases.
Across America, 28.8 million people have been infected and almost 520,000 have died since the start of the pandemic.