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28 College Students Who Chartered A Spring Break Plane To Mexico Now Have Coronavirus

The Austin Public Health investigation centers around a group of students who traveled together to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
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The Austin Public Health investigation centers around a group of students who traveled together to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Around 70 people in their 20s are under investigation in Austin, Texas, for possible infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 after they chartered a plane for a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, last month. At least 28 of the passengers from that flight have tested positive for the coronavirus, with dozens more tests pending.

All of the people who have tested positive are students at the University of Texas at Austin, according to member station KUT. They are currently self-isolating. Of those 28 cases, four people did not show any symptoms of COVID-19, health officials said.

In another worrying detail, health officials say that some members of the spring break party returned to Austin on separate commercial flights — widening the potential spread of infection.

A university spokesperson said the trip is believed to have taken place from March 14 to March 19. The group returned to the U.S. a day before the federal government advised U.S. citizens not to travel abroad.

The day after the broad travel advisory went out, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to restrict all nonessential travel across their shared border.

"While Mexico at the time of their travel was not under a federal travel advisory, Austin-Travis County residents should follow CDC's travel recommendations indicating travelers avoid all non-essential international travel," Austin Public Health said.

"A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential," the agency added.

Several days after the flight returned from the Mexican resort, the city of Austin issued a stay-at-home order that also required many businesses to close, as it joined other communities trying to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

Austin is in Travis County, which currently has 244 coronavirus cases. Of that total, 57 of the patients are people in their 20s. Two people have died from COVID-19 in the county.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.