The city of South Padre Island has decided that Spring Break should go on, even amid a wave of cancellations of major events elsewhere around Texas and the nation due to fears about the spread of the new coronavirus.
SPI issued a statement March 10 claiming that city officials had diligently reviewed and evaluated all information regarding risks associated with coronavirus, or COVID-19, and concluded that the event could proceed with minimal risk. Unlike massive public gatherings such as SXSW in Austin that attract large numbers of international visitors, SPI’s Spring Break attracts mainly residents of Texas and other states, according to the city.
“Information available indicates that the majority of the coronavirus cases are from people that entered in the U.S. internationally … and have been appropriately quarantined,” read the statement.
Health officials have reported no cases of coronavirus in the Rio Grande Valley, though Texas had 34 reported cases as of Thursday afternoon, and the first possible case of community spread reported, in Houston. More than 1,500 people in 45 states had tested positive for coronavirus with at least 39 U.S. patients had died.
Meanwhile, SXSW and other big events such as the Houston Livestock Show and the Dallas St. Patrick’s Day parade were cancelled. The Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show in Mercedes was still on as of press time Thursday, though Hidalgo County Public Affairs Director Carlos Sanchez released a statement saying that county and livestock show officials “will work together to continue to monitor the situation.”
SPI’s statement was worded similarly: “The city of South Padre Island will continue to monitor and evaluate all available information, and as usual, will place the health and safety of our citizens and visitors above all.”
While the city doesn’t officially host Spring Break, it does help with planning, safety, security and traffic associated with the various privately promoted events involved, according to the statement. Spring Break started this week on the Island, though the biggest crowds typically arrive during Texas Week, which begins next week.
Nikki Soto, SPI public information officer, confirmed Thursday that the city had not changed its mind about letting Spring Break go on.
At least one resident of the Island wasn’t happy with the decision. Daniel Mire, 74, a full-time SPI resident and self-described senior citizen, said Thursday that the city is more concerned about businesses being able to sell beer to spring breakers than with the health of its older residents.
“It’s shame on them,” he said.