As spring breakers descend on San Diego County, it's not hard to find people enjoying restaurants and bars. In Pacific Beach, several tourists said it felt like the pandemic was over. Health leaders, however, said it's exactly that mindset that has them worried.
"It's actually my spring break, so I came out for a couple days,” Christina Paris told NBC 7. “There was an opportunity on a really good discount, so I figured I'd take advantage of that down here."
Officials from the San Diego International Airport told NBC 7 that 22,328 passengers traveled through the TSA checkpoint this past Sunday, the most people through it since March 15 of last year, which was the last weekend before the shutdown. Still, that’s still 60% less passengers than during the same day in 2019.
"They haven't changed how they act around here,” said Arty Belash, who was visiting from Portland. “Everyone is out here to have a good time. I feel like a lot of people are a little over it [the pandemic]. Everyone just wants to get back out there."
"Yeah, I know a lot of people are starting to get over it,” said Paris, who included herself in that assessment. "I don't want to sound ignorant. I'm definitely getting over it."
Jessica Small and Jeremiah Cortero were both in San Diego for the week, visiting from Alaska.
"We just haven't traveled in a while and just had that bug,” Small said.
Small and Cortero are fully vaccinated and are careful to wear face masks, social distance and wash hands, but not everyone shares their vigilance.
"It almost seems like people forget there's a pandemic going on,” Cortero said.
With promising state COVID case numbers, it’s easy to see why.
Last week, the state reported an average 2,546 new cases a day. That's a 24% drop from two weeks ago, according to data analysis by the Los Angeles Times. California's seven-day case rate is 43 cases per 100,000 people, the second-lowest in the nation - far below the national case rate of 130 or even higher rates in New York, Florida and Texas.
In the past, California has been a week or two behind the rest of the nation in case rates, so health leaders worry a new wave is on the horizon.
“We have so much to look forward to,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was recently quoted, “so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now I'm scared.”
Twice this week, Walensky struggled to keep her composure, as more than half the nation is now reporting case trends in the wrong direction.
“We know from prior surges that if we don't control things now,” Walensky said, "there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again. Please, take this moment very seriously."
It appears those words aren't enough to dissuade spring breakers.