KEY POINTS

  • 28 out of about 70 people who went on a spring break trip to Mexico are COVID-19 positive
  • The other people in the group are now under quarantine and being monitored
  • Health authorities are urging people of all ages to avoid all non-essential travel

Public health authorities in Austin, Texas are now investigating a cluster of COVID-19 positive cases involving a large group of people who returned from a recent spring break trip to Mexico. Of the group, 28 have so far tested positive for COVID-19.

The ones who tested positive are self-isolating at this time, with four of them not presenting any symptoms. All of the other people in the group have also been contacted and are also under quarantine while being monitored and tested.

According to the Austin Public Health Department, the group of about 70 people in their 20's left for a spring break trip via a chartered plane a week and a half ago. Some of them returned home on separate commercial flights.

Mexico was not listed under a federal travel advisory when the group went on the trip but people have already been advised to cancel non-essential travel.

"A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential," Austin Public Health Department said in a statement.

In Austin-Travis County, almost half of the people testing positive are in their 20's. Although older populations and those who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to the disease, there is also the problem of having the younger people possibly spreading the virus to the vulnerable populations. This is particularly problematic in places like Austin-Travis County where there are about 132,000 people aged 65 or older, which is about 10% of the population.

"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.

What's more, although certain populations are more vulnerable to developing serious illness from the virus, it does not mean that younger populations are immune. In fact, figures as of March 16 show that 20% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. are of people aged 20-44.

"While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19," Escott continued.

Because of the COVID-19 cluster, public health officials are reiterating the message to people of all ages to stay home and avoid non-essential travel. As of March 31, Texas state has reported 3,266 COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths, with the most number of cases coming from Harris County and Dallas County.

Students drinking on Spring Break U.S. college students spend Spring Break partying in Mexico. Photo: REUTERS/Gerardo Garcia