Spring break partying could spell the “perfect storm” for triggering the spread of new coronavirus variants across the US, an expert warned.
“It’s the perfect storm,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN.
Hotez said he feared that college kids hitting the party scene in Florida could accelerate the spread of the highly-contagious UK variant, which is known as B.1.1.7.
“You’ve got the B.1.1.7 variant accelerating in Florida. You’ve got all these 20-year-old kids,” he said.
“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.”
Hotez noted that Florida currently has the highest rate in the nation of the UK variant, which is believed to be as much as 74 percent transmissible as the original strain.
“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.”
Hotez said other spring break destinations, such as Texas and Mississippi, could also become hot spots for the virus now that the states have ditched mask mandates.
“A lot of (students) are going to go to South Texas as well, and that’s also a concern,” said Hotez, who added that the lack of mask rules could “accelerate COVID-19 nationally.”
Hotez urged people to avoid travel unless they’ve been vaccinated or recently infected.
“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.”