PINELLAS COUNTY — Experts are watching for a spike in flu and COVID-19 cases after spring break as crowds form on beaches and fewer people wear masks.
“Right now my message would be that COVID is not gone,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for USF College of Public Health.
The difference this year, compared to the two other pandemic spring breaks, is that there are more tools available to fight COVID-19.
“We can really assess our risks really differently this year with those vaccines available,” said Roberts.
However, as crowds flock to Tampa Bay area beaches, researchers worry people may be throwing all caution to the wind.
“The good news for this year is the omicron wave has really crashed out. The bad news is it’s not gone and it still actually has some significant transmission in our area," said Roberts.
That's why experts are watching for a spike in cases after spring break, both for COVID-19 and the flu.
“I would worry about both and seeing a spike in both after spring break and especially because crowds facilitate the spread. And so yeah we’re going to watch, we watch every year, every year there’s a blip after spring break,” said Roberts.
“What I would be more concerned about is if we see a blip of a variant. So the omicron part two is around. Strains have been detected in the U.S. and so I think that’s one of the major things that I’ll be watching for as just to see if that variant is picking up speed,” she added.
Doctors say the best way to still enjoy spring break while working to keep the community safe is for people to wear masks inside, in indoor crowded spaces, and in areas where people may not be vaccinated.
“So many people do have that pandemic fatigue but I would say that you have the luxury of having pandemic fatigue, whereas a lot of other people do not. So for people who are immunocompromised, kids under the age of five, the pandemic is still ongoing and it’s still something they have to be aware of,” said Roberts.
“One thing I would say is to keep in mind is what activities are really necessary to do right now and which ones are not. If you are a parent and your kids are off for school, I understand it’s very tough to find something to do for that week but there are activities that are much, much safer and much less likely to be crowded with people,” she added.