The novel coronavirus sickened at least 60 University of Texas students who took a spring break trip to Mexico in March, ignoring officials’ advice to stay home and social distance, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
After three students tested positive for the novel coronavirus following the trip, which took place from March 14 to 19, the COVID-19 Center at the University of Texas Health Austin (UTHA) launched an investigation. Through contact tracing initiatives, the center linked the students' infections to the spring break trip in Cabo San Lucas, the CDC wrote in the report published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Wednesday.
Of the 231 people tested for the novel virus, 64 of them — or 28 percent — tested positive, “including 60 (33 percent) of 183 Cabo San Lucas travelers, one of 13 (8 percent) household contacts of Cabo San Lucas travelers, and three (9 percent) of 35 community contacts of Cabo San Lucas travelers,” per the report.
About one-fifth of the positive cases were asymptomatic. No one infected required hospitalization, and no one died.
Many of the spring breakers told officials that they shared a house while in Cabo San Lucas, with many of them returning to a similar living situation after arriving back in Austin, where the University of Texas is located.
“The proximity created by this shared housing likely contributed to transmission through ongoing exposure and reexposure to SARS-CoV-2. This pattern of social interaction, in which residents gather frequently to socialize and share facilities, is common among many college-aged persons and might lead to propagated spread, similar to the continued person-to-person transmission observed in long-term care facilities,” the report’s authors wrote.
“This COVID-19 outbreak among a young, healthy population with no or mild symptoms was controlled with a coordinated public health response that included rapid contact tracing and testing of all exposed persons,” they noted. The report's authors concluded that “a coordinated response with contact tracing and testing of all contacts, including those who are asymptomatic, is important in controlling future COVID-19 outbreaks that might occur as schools and universities consider reopening.”
“The prevalence of shared housing and prolonged exposure experienced by the college-aged Cabo San Lucas travelers highlights the importance of universities and schools considering how to align students’ living arrangements with CDC recommendations for living in shared housing as they plan to reopen,” they added.