PINELLAS COUNTY – Experts are noticing an increase in flu and COVID-19 cases after the spring break, as crowds are forming on beaches and fewer people are wearing masks.
“Right now, my message will be that COVID is not gone,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor at USF College of Public Health.
The difference this year, compared to the other two pandemic spring break, is that there are more tools available to combat COVID-19.
“We can really assess our risks really differently this year with the vaccines available,” Roberts said.
But as crowds flock to the beaches of the Tampa Bay area, scientists worry that people may throw all caution in the wind.
“The good news for this year is that the omicron wave has really crashed. The bad news is that it is not gone and it actually still has a significant transmission in our area,” Roberts said.
Spring Break begins in Florida
This is why experts are keeping an eye out for an increase in cases after the spring break, both for COVID-19 and the flu.
“I would worry about both and seeing an increase in both after the spring break and especially because the crowds ease the spread. And so yes, we’ll see, we see every year, every year there’s a blow after spring break,” said Roberts.
“What I would be more concerned about is if we see a blip of a variant. So omicron part two is around. Strains have been discovered in the US and so I think it’s one of the most important things that I want to keep an eye on, just to see if that variant picks up speed, ”she added.
Doctors say the best way to still enjoy the spring break while working to keep society safe is for people to wear masks indoors, in indoor crowded spaces and in areas where people may not be vaccinated.
“So many people have the pandemic fatigue, but I would say you have the luxury of having pandemic fatigue, whereas many other people do not. So for people who are immunocompromised, children under the age of five, the pandemic is still going on, and it’s still something they need to be aware of, ”Roberts said.
“One thing I want to say is keep in mind which activities are really necessary to do right now and which are not. If you are a parent and your children go to school, I understand that it is very difficult to find something to do that week, but there are activities that are much, much safer and much less likely to be crowded with people, ”she added.