Florida's Spring Break Hot Spots Reporting Slight Increases in COVID-19 Cases

Spring break hot spots across Florida are beginning to report slight increases in COVID-19 cases, as young people continue flocking to the state's beaches and cities to celebrate.

In each of the metro areas of Miami, Tampa and Orlando, coronavirus cases have begun to rise among people aged 25 to 49 years old, according to The Miami Herald. The rise comes after months of decline in each of those areas, and the uptick has been particularly significant in Miami.

In Miami-Dade County, cases have jumped from about 450 per day to 550 per day over the last week, per The Miami Herald. In Hillsborough Country, which houses Tampa, cases have risen in that age group from 120 per day to 155 over the past two weeks.

And in Orange County, where Orlando is located, that number has risen from about 110 to about 150 average cases in the same two-week time period.

"When we see increases like this, we know we have to pay attention," Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida told The Miami Herald. "We know how hard it is to protect the vulnerable when there's an increase in community transmission."

The slight rise in cases is happening amid a surge in tourism across the state, where coronavirus restrictions are particularly lax. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, was one of the first state leaders to reopen bars, restaurants and beaches at full capacity in September.

DeSantis also refused to implement a statewide mask mandate early into the pandemic, and instead stated that he preferred to let city leaders decide whether to implement them locally.

Miami Beach—one the state's most popular spring break destinations—has such a mask ordinance in place, but revelers have largely been seen ignoring protocols.

So far, over 1,000 arrests have been made in Miami Beach in the past week, after thousands of partygoers gathered in unruly crowds, refusing to wear face masks and also defacing property. Half of the arrestees had come from out of state and included 42 felony charges and 100 confiscated guns, Miami Beach Police said.

On Tuesday, Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber blamed the issue on mixed messaging from the DeSantis.

"I don't think we've done a great job statewide," Gelber said in an interview with Fox News. "What I think we didn't do well enough was really preach to people with one voice that they need to wear a mask and be smart ... [Visitors] were not getting that here. They were getting a lot of mixed messages, and I think that hurt us."

Miami Spring Break
Coronavirus cases are slightly rising in major metro areas of Florida as young people continue to flock to the state for spring break. Here, a crow of people gathers while exiting the area as an 8pm curfew goes into effect on March 21, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Miami Beach responded to the spring break issues by imposing an 8 p.m. curfew in its entertainment district and other "emergency measures."

"Too many are coming, really, without the intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is just something more than we can endure," Gelber told CNN.

The influx of spring break tourism also comes at a time when more than 70 percent of people age 16 or older have not yet received the coronavirus vaccine in Florida. So far, 24 percent of the state has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 13.4 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

Earlier this month, DeSantis said that the state would never reenter lockdown, even if its COVID-19 case numbers significantly worsened.

"To even contemplate doing any kind of lockdown, honestly, it's insane, so that's not going to happen in the state of Florida," he said on March 12. "We like the fact that people have been able to work here ... so we're going to continue doing what works, but under no circumstances would we entertain doing anything of the sort."

As of Wednesday, Florida ranks third out of the states with the highest overall number of reported coronavirus cases, according to the Times. Over 2 million people have contracted the virus in Florida, and 32,819 have died since the start of the pandemic.

Newsweek contacted the Florida Department of Health and DeSantis for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.