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Coronavirus: 28 U.S. spring-breakers test positive for COVID-19 after Mexico trip

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Twenty-eight U.S. spring break tourists who returned to Texas after vacationing with a large group in the Mexican beach resort of Cabo San Lucas have tested positive for coronavirus, drawing attention to possibly low detection of cases in Mexico.

The 28 confirmed cases are self-isolating and dozens more are under quarantine while being monitored and tested, the city of Austin said in a statement on Tuesday.

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“About a week and a half ago, approximately 70 people in their 20s departed in a chartered plane for a spring break trip,” the city said, adding that some of the group returned on separate commercial flights.

“Currently, 28 young adults on this trip have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more are under public health investigation,” the statement said.

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Mexico overall has confirmed just over 1,000 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths, a fraction of the numbers in its northern neighbor. Critics of the government’s strategy say a relatively low number of tests carried out mean more cases could be undetected.

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Baja California Sur, the peninsular state where Cabo San Lucas is located, had 13 cases of coronavirus through Monday, Mexican health ministry data shows.

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Austin public health authorities and the University of Texas at Austin have contacted every “spring breaker onboard the plane using flight manifests from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” the city’s statement said.

At the time of the trip, Mexico was not under a U.S. federal travel advisory, but had advised against non-essential travel.

“A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential,” the city said.

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The government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been reluctant to implement coronavirus restrictions that could adversely affect the economy and jobs, and only in recent days stepped up the message that people should stay at home.

Still, Mexico’s usually packed beaches, bars and clubs have largely emptied after U.S. authorities issued a ban on non-essential travel to Mexico, including for tourist trips across the U.S.-Mexico land border.

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Mexico declared a health emergency on Monday and issued stricter rules aimed at containing the fast-spreading coronavirus.

(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Dan Grebler)