Despite optimism from the development of vaccines, as well as recent drops in hospitalizations and fatalities related to COVID-19, doctors at Memorial Hermann Health System urge everyone to continue to adhere to safety precautions this Spring Break to avoid another surge in cases.
“Even though the state of Texas is lifting its mask mandate and opening business 100%, the pandemic is not over, and people should not pretend that it’s safe to go and enjoy a traditional Spring Break,” said Linda Yancey, MD, an infectious disease specialist with Memorial Hermann Health System. “Many people have received the COVID-19 vaccine, but we still have a long way to go until the majority of the public is vaccinated. I know we are all tired, but it’s too soon to let our guard down.”
Yancey says there was a significant spike in cases in the Houston area during the recent holiday season when many gathered with family and friends in large groups. She adds the number of cases is currently trending down, but she is worried that people getting together in large groups during Spring Break will lead to another surge in cases, further taxing healthcare workers who have been taking care of COVID-19 patients since last March.
“Even people who have been vaccinated need to still wear masks, watch their distance and wash their hands. They might be protected from developing the disease, but not necessarily from carrying the virus,” Yancey said. “A vaccinated person can still be an asymptomatic carrier. My fear is that people will become complacent and many people will end up extremely ill a couple of weeks after Spring Break.”
From a public health perspective, the goal isn’t to put a damper on everyone’s fun, Yancey added, but rather to offer alternatives that won’t cause additional spread of COVID-19. She said that with a little imaginative thinking, everyone —from college students to families to retirees—can enjoy Spring Break safely.
“Go explore the great outdoors or find a secluded spot on the beach. The virus does not spread as easily outdoors. Indoors, you can enjoy home-cooked dinners and games with people in your household or bubble, try a new recipe or a new hobby that you can learn with others—even if it’s over Zoom,” Yancey said. “I know none of this can replace the kinship of getting together or vacationing with friends and family, but if we can just keep these alternative social practices up a little longer, we can all plan on Spring Break 2022 being the best one yet.”
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