Thousands of partying American university students have made their annual pilgrimage to Florida for spring break despite being in the middle of a pandemic.
Tens of thousands of maskless spring breakers are spending the week flocking to the beaches as new daily infections are continuing to hover at around 50,000 new cases a day.
Nationwide the United States has now recorded 29.6 million cases of COVID-19, and 538,052 deaths.
On Wednesday there were 51,954 new cases and 995 deaths, according to the latest figures.
Meanwhile, the country’s vaccination effort is continuing apace. The United States has administered 113million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning and distributed 147million doses split between the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines.
College students and others descended on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach to make the most of the warm weather and freedom from lockdown
Florida does not require people to wear face masks and there were none in sight on Wednesday amid the celebrations
Outdoor dining is still a big feature for those in Florida along with outdoor drinking as can be witnessed here
The state hasn’t had any statewide restrictions for at least six months after DeSantis allowed businesses, including bars and restaurants, to open at full capacity.
He also prohibited municipalities from fining people who refuse to wear masks.
‘Everyone told me I was wrong. I faced continued pressure from radical Democrats and the liberal media but I refused to back down. It’s clear: Florida got it right.’
On Wednesday there were 51,954 new cases and 995 deaths according to the latest figures
Nationwide the United States has now recorded 29,605,933 cases of COVID-19, and 538,052 deaths
Florida’s charts for new cases, the numbers of those in hospital and the numbers of deaths are all on downward trajectories
Miami Beach is a popular destination for young travelers and Florida has welcomed them with open arms
Boozing with no masks was no problem for Florida, as the governor has said the state got it right when it came to virus restrictions. People gathered in Miami for Spring Break even amidst warnings from some health officials
Groups of young people in Miami on Ocean Drive party it up and booze it up during Spring Break – mostly maskless
Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has hit out at those who have previously criticized his no-restriction approach to the COVID-19 pandemic telling them: ‘Florida got it right’
The United States has administered 113million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning and distributed 147million doses split between the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines
In a press conference on Tuesday, DeSantis doubled down on his response by saying that lockdowns imposed by other states had damaged the country.
‘Those lockdowns have not worked. They’ve done great damage to our country,’ he said.
Florida’s response to the pandemic has meant its economy has been booming in recent months.
Spring breakers are currently crowding Florida cities and Miami which has seen an influx of of famed New York City restaurants opening up shop to cash in on those ready to party.
‘We can never let something like this happen again. Florida took a different path. We’ve had more success as a result,’ DeSantis said.
‘We still have millions of kids across this country who are denied access to in-person education. We still have businesses closed in many parts of this country. We have millions and millions of lives destroyed.’
Florida has dropped fines for people who don’t wear masks or follow other restrictions but there are still a few who want to
Servers working in local bars decided to wear masks while dealing with the influx of visitors
Governor DeSantis dropped fines for people who flout COVID-19 safety measures including the wearing of masks
It is not just in beach towns that rules are being relaxed. In the vast majority of states, businesses are open and operating at 50 percent or greater capacity.
At least 14 states have dropped their mask mandates altogether, leaving it to individual businesses to decide if they will require patrons to cover their faces.
And Texas and Mississippi are leading the charge toward normalcy, with virtually no COVID-19 restrictions in place.
President Biden’s CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky has warned, however, that the number of infections in Florida could spike off the back of Spring Breakers flocking to the state amid the spread of a COVID-19 variant.
‘We have seen footage of people enjoying spring break festivities, maskless. This is all in the context of still 50,000 cases per day.’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Walensky said at the start of this week.
The state hasn’t had any statewide restrictions for at least six months after DeSantis allowed businesses, including bars and restaurants, to open at full capacity. Pictured above are spring breakers in Miami Beach on Wednesday
Musician Vibezz is in Miami Beach, Florida, to perform for spring breakers this weekend.
‘Cases climbed last spring, they climbed again in the summer, they will climb now if we stop taking precautions when we continue to get more and more people vaccinated.’
It comes as the mayor of Miami Beach said Spring Breakers had ‘forgotten there is a pandemic’, adding that too many people were coming to the city ‘with a desire to go wild’.
Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach, said people were arriving with an ‘anything goes’ mentality.
The city has brought in ‘zero tolerance for all of our ordinances,’ which means Miami Beach Police are making arrests for having open containers.
Spring breakers have fun riding around in golf carts along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach in Florida
Florida’s response to the pandemic has meant its economy has been booming in recent months as people have flocked there
Spring breakers are currently crowding Florida cities including Miami Beach, pictured, and Fort Lauderdale
In another part of Miami, Miguel Garcia, 78, right, prepares to receive a dose of the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Miami-Dade County Tropical Park vaccination site
Far away from the spring breakers, Juan Carlos Guerrero, 62, prepares to receive a dose of the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
But there are no fines or arrests for refusing to wear face masks.
Gelber said the city was not equipped to handle so many people.
‘I think it might be a little bit related to just people looking to let loose after being pent up, but some people are coming here with sort of an anything-goes mentality and even if it’s just a small percentage – it’s a small percentage of an enormous amount of people,’ Gelber said.
‘I’ve been on Ocean Drive almost every day in the last week, and the number of people not wearing masks or just not bothering with any of the healthy practices is very disturbing,’ he said.
‘An enormous number of people are coming our way, and many of them, if not most, seem to have forgotten that there’s a pandemic.’
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are underway, with smaller crowds than usual, in Miami Beach
It wasn’t just the beach that was crowded: Bars in Miami Beach also were teeming on St. Pat’s as people gathered maskless
People gathered in Miami bars to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday – most didn’t wear masks, but a few did
The streets of Miami Beach were packed with an ‘enormous amount’ of people, according to the city’s mayor
Streets were packed with cars as the Spring Break holiday gets well and truly into swing