PORT ARANSAS, Texas — Although Sunday’s murky weather made for an underwhelming ending to what is normally a peak time for spring breakers, previous advice from health experts is still largely going unheard.
"It's not time to go back to normal. It's not time to throw big celebrations," Coastal Bend COVID Task Force member Dr. Chris Bird said while providing an update via Facebook March 5. "You're encouraged to stay vigilant and the longer — the more adherent we are to these principles, the faster this pandemic’s going to be over."
In contrast to to that advice, areas like Padre Island and Port Aransas still saw a noticeably larger amount of visitors.
“I think that it’s going to result in a spike,” said Erica Gonzalez, a grocery store worker from the Dallas area with a small group of family and friends. Even though she recently received her first COVID-19 vaccination, she said she’s not taking any chances and mostly staying within their own bubble. “We are spending our spring break basically staying in, cooking all of our meals — we are not going anywhere. The only place we are going is to get a pedicure when we go out we are all wearing masks and some of our cases — double masking.”
Gonzalez had previously planned to travel to Destin, FL, but later shifted over to Port Aransas once she had learned there was no mask mandate in place. The Texas governor’s lifting of the mask mandate effective March 10 also caught her off guard.
“It’s really kind of shocking when we’re here that there’s so many people not wearing masks that don’t care, but at the same time, we’re just glad that we are at least doing our part to keep everybody else safe,” she said. “I wish that Texas would have kept their mask mandate, but at least we didn’t pick South Padre.”
Brian Evans, of Austin, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to be vaccinated since he doesn’t yet meet the criteria. He said he and his family are hesitant to be a part of large crowds — especially when it involves businesses that don’t have any kind of mask-wearing guidelines.
“It’s great that it’s opened up so that we can get to the beach,” Evans said. “Even though it’s not the greatest weather, still having a good time, and you know, still being careful, taking precautions when you we go inside.”
KRIS 6 News also checked in with Bernie’s Beach House — a Port Aransas bar minutes from the beach who we've spoken with before in regards to the mask mandate being lifted.
With this being their 16th spring break, their general manager, Vanessa Garcia, said they didn’t break any records, but are trying to be optimistic.
“This week looks like it could still bring a lot more business for us, but this did look like the big overlap weekend, so, if we were going to see a peak, it was probably this Friday and Saturday,” Garcia said.
This weekend was the first time they and all other Texas businesses were able to open at 100 percent capacity.
"We actually had a much better crowd than we’ve seen in a really long time,” Garcia said. “Of course it was the first time we were fully open since last spring break.”
A majority of their clientele weren’t wearing masks. Garcia went on to explain that, without any backing from the state, they felt as if their hands were tied when it came to enforcing any guidelines.
“We were already in an environment that seem to have a more difficult time enforcing … Now, without the backing, it didn’t seem like a meaningful pursuit,” she said. “(From that, we’re seeing) a lot of positive feedback from people being able to just come in and do what they want to do. You know, hopefully there won’t be too many negative repercussions on the other side of that, but, for the most part — everybody seems to be celebrating it.”