Things are getting heated at the University of Texas at Austin after fifty-three students tested positive for coronavirus after traveling to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, from March 14 to 19 for spring break. The students are facing backlash after they failed to heed the warning of health officials (and Matthew McConaughey) and instead decided it was more important to party.
The outcry has grown so intense that some parents of the spring breakers are pushing back and claiming their children are victims of “cyberbullying.” All of this would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so deadly serious.
In March, 211 students went on a spring break trip.
Some 200 students went on a spring break trip and caused the University of Texas at Austin’s campus to become a hotspot for the virus and new infections, the Daily Mail reports. The group of students is being referred to as “Cabo 211” online.
On March 13, a day before the trip, the University canceled classes and would go on to completely cancel study abroad programs. Additionally, the city of Austin had declared a state of emergency and health officials had advised against all nonessential travel. But, the “Cabo 211” proceeded on their trip.
Two weeks after the students returned from Cabo, many of them started getting sick.
Vice was first to report forty-four students had tested positive for coronavirus. The report prompted critics online to call the students “Cabo 44” and the hashtag #Cabo44 began making the rounds on social media.
By April 4, KXAN reported the number had quickly grown to 53 infected. While it’s not entirely shocking that the students who participated in the trip got sick, it is unfortunate that many of the students that followed the warnings and stayed on UT Austin’s campus are now living with the consequences. And, as you might expect, they’re not very happy about it.
UT Austin’s students were already angry, then they found out the students had chartered a private plane for their vacation.
whoa, biked past the sorority house where a bunch of those #Cabo44 UT students live who ignored social distancing and quarantine guidelines by going on spring break and someone tagged, “EAT THE RICH” on their building pic.twitter.com/SRgC3DL8Ce— ignacio martinez ???? (@NacioMartinez) April 14, 2020
Many of the students who went on the privately chartered plane are allegedly members of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Several of the sorority’s sisters tagged themselves with the official @texastheta Instagram account using the #springbreak hashtag on Instagram which lead students to believe they’d been on that chartered plane.
Vice reported that the sorority house had been vandalized with the phrase, “EAT THE RICH” spray-painted on it.
“When stories came out about students on a chartered plane to Cabo, everyone was like, ‘Who the hell are these people?'” one student explained. “And then someone was like, ‘Hey, Texas Theta just posted all these pictures from Cabo… It’s them!”‘
UT twitter on another level, they found out everyone’s names and affiliations in less than a day…— jess ???? (@sIeepyyjess) April 2, 2020
Remarking on the situation and social media sleuthing one student tweeted, “UT twitter on another level, they found out everyone’s names and affiliations in less than a day…”
As the coronavirus and the news spread, more and more students voiced their outrage.
“I canceled mine,” one 21-year-old student said of her plans. “It seemed very clear that we shouldn’t be flying, for our own safety as much as other people’s safety. Seeing those Instagram pictures of people in Cabo, it’s just like, compounding the issue.”
As the fury mounted, the Texas Theta Instagram page went from public to private.
18-year-old Johnathan Valdez who has many friends that attend UT Austin told Vice, “At 7:32, I tweeted out, ‘2020 sucked [explecitive], then Texas Theta and their selfish members decided to exist.'”
The rhetoric became more heated and the target of the students’ ire hit back.
A couple of hours after Valdez sent the tweet he described to Vice, he said: “I received a Direct Message, but it was on Instagram, which I found really weird.”
The message said, “Show your face!!”
Valdez decided to investigate the cryptic message and believes it came from the mom of one of the sorority sisters. He found that the account was trying to debunk the story that the students chartered the plane to Cabo.
Then, Valdez received another message, on Twitter this time, that threatened legal action. “We have contacted the Austin police and our attorney!!!” the message said. “These Theta girls DID NOT CHARTER A PLANE!!! Our daughter has been in quarantine for 13 days now.”
More threats to more students followed.
A student named Chad,18, who did not disclose his last name, said he didn’t think twice before commenting on one of the spring break photos.
“I go to the comments, and already there’s a dozen UT students who have left [negative] comments on it, and I had an idea for a joke,” he told Vice. He commented, “besos and bringing back corona.”
“The general attitude, I feel like from most people online, was that these people were kinda the bad guys, anyway,” he explained.
A couple of hours after leaving the comment, Chad got a message from the same account who’d threatened Valdez.
“Are you aware that i[t] was not the Texas Theta girls that chartered a plane to Cabo? Are you aware that none of the Theta girls have tested positive for corona,” the message read. “We have sent all the texts to Austin police.”
It was becoming clear to the students at UT Austin that the threats were coming from the same parent.
I heard that too, I must say I’m very confused. @avia900 Are you insinuating that members of Texas Theta did not go to Cabo? And why are you dming everyone rather than simply filing a complaint with UT officials? What was the purpose of your dms to multiple people? Please explain pic.twitter.com/D87NItMwyK— lil love maker (@playthembunny) April 2, 2020
The UT students began sharing the menacing messages with one another and realized they were all coming from someone named Arianna Via. Via said she would report the students commenting about the sorority for “cyberbullying.”
“I’m not sure if you think this is some kind of joke but for you to feel like you can post things like this and spread false information then you are 100 percent wrong,” Via wrote. “During this time no one should be trying to bring down ANYONE.”
While Via was fighting with young adults online, another parent claimed the students had taken the trip because they couldn’t get a refund.
Parents spoke to WGN 9 and explained that many UT Austin students had booked their spring break trips using the online travel agency that caters to college students called JusCollege. One mom contacted the company and voiced concerns about coronavirus and asked for a refund.
JusCollege responded via email, “There is no compelling reason to reconsider travel to Mexico at this time due to coronavirus.”
In spite of the response from JusCollege, the mother decided it wouldn’t be wise for her son to go on the trip. As of April 3, her son has not received a refund.
Students at UT Austin are now living in a COVID-19 ‘hot spot.’
At this point, students don’t really care why the students went on vacation. The fact of the matter is that they did and the damage is done. Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the campus a COVID-19 “hot spot.”
“I could not care less if they were in Texas Theta, or Alpha Phi, or Alpha Chai Tea Latte, like it’s whatever,” Chad told Vice. “My only problem with this situation is that students went to Cabo and that somebody’s mother threatened to have me arrested or whatever.”
When asked about staying safe the student said, “The best thing to do is to stay at my apartment in Austin instead of going back home to Fort Worth; my mother is elderly and immunocompromised, and I don’t feel comfortable being around her right now,” Chad said. “But now the coronavirus is two blocks away from me.”
What a mess.