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Galveston Beach in 2019.

While many universities across the country—Yale University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Rice University to name a few—have canceled or shortened spring break to mitigate the threat of COVID-19, most Texas universities are carrying on as planned.


Since Gov. Greg Abbott did away with statewide COVID-19 restrictions, just days before spring break week, Galveston officials said they saw a massive crowd kicking off spring break weekend on Saturday. A pandemic taboo, tens of thousands flocked to the famous spring break destination, Galveston Beach, to relax.

It wouldn't be the first time, spring breakers have gathered despite a pandemic. Last year actually brought the most people to the Galveston Beach than some past years, says Chief Peter Davis of Galveston Island Beach Patrol.


Davis said he is expecting large crowds, though it is still too early to tell how many beachgoers are expected on the island.

"We were packed Saturday—I mean, the island was completely full," Davis told Austonia on Monday. "I think we had bumper-to-bumper traffic for probably five or six hours in the afternoon."

Davis said for the past two years, Galveston has had 7.2 million visitors, so the conversation of keeping people safe has been ongoing since before the pandemic even began.

Beaches have always been a popular spring break destination for college students. And for local university students, the drive up to Galveston is just over three hours long.

The University of Texas at Austin did not change the spring break schedule, though they recommended students get tested one to three days before traveling and after, quarantining for ten days if not. But the university, ultimately cannot control what students do during their break.

Although weekend crowds draw in anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 people, Davis said the beach is actually probably one of the safest places for people to go.

"I think the beaches are back into popularity again. It kind of waxes and wanes but I think we're seeing a surge of interest in going to the beach (with COVID putting) limitation on other types of recreation," Davis said. "They all come basically down the same highway, go to the same gas stations and restaurants and they all funnel through, so the beach itself might be fairly easy to stay distant and to kind of maintain those precautions."

There are still a few weeks in the spring break season, Davis said, and with a lot of vacation areas, they can't regulate as easily, like Airbnb rentals and less populous beaches, keeping people safe is difficult. Davis said he expects the crowds to get rowdy, but he is glad that they have been safe so far.

(Galveston Beach Patrol/Instagram)


Beachfront Business General Manager Charlie Rightly said being on the beach, business has been pretty steady for him. Since the restaurant is an open-air patio, they let customers decide whether or not they want to mask.

"Everybody's pretty spaced out and everything (on the beach)," Rightly said. "The city's doing a lot of that by just implementing where they put out the umbrellas."

And aside from taking COVID precautions, Davis mentioned not to swim alone and be careful of rip currents as you swim—believe it or not, there is more danger at the beach than just catching a deadly virus.

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