Regina Collier of Buda said she sat on empty beaches in Port Aransas on Tuesday afternoon, watching her two school-aged children play in the surf as the threat of the new coronavirus played in the back of her mind.

Port Aransas officials the night before had banned all gatherings of more than 50 people in the Gulf Coast city, which — along with neighboring Corpus Christi and South Padre Island — is a popular spring break destination for Texas college students.

Just days before, tens of thousands of Texas spring breakers flooded into Port Aransas as cities across the nation began to close schools and offices in response to a global pandemic of COVID-19, the illness linked to the new coronavirus.

Port Aransas officials expected Austin-area college students, whose spring break is a week behind other Texas schools, to flood the shoreline this week. But the beaches are now bare, according to city officials.

"Coming out here for spring break was definitely a concern, but we thought it would be OK because we’re staying in a private home" Collier told the American-Statesman by phone from Port Aransas on Tuesday. "There are hardly any college kids down here, just families."

Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said Monday night’s decision to adopt the ban did not come lightly. Despite the economic hit the city would take as a result, Bujan said it was the best decision now that the state’s COVID-19 cases had climbed to at least 64 by Tuesday.

The University of Texas, St. Edward’s University, Austin Community College and Concordia University are all on their regularly scheduled spring break this week. However, UT and ACC extended their breaks for an extra week to prepare for online courses that will replace in-person classes to help prevent the spread of the virus.

"That decision more or less shut the spring breakers down," Bujan told the Statesman. "We had thousands of spring breakers here the previous week. But, we have to do what we have to do. Sometimes these are tough calls."

Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs said that while the city may take a hit from the crowd ban, it would not be as devastating as if it were the first week of spring break. Only Austin-area college students were expected to show starting Monday.

"Usually this week we will see a decrease in crowds anyway," Burroughs said. "Spring break is still going on and we’re very family-oriented down here. If anyone in Austin is looking to self-quarantine at the beach, it’s pretty easy to stay 20 to 30 feet from others at Port Aransas."

Gov. Greg Abbott in a public briefing on the coronavirus last week said students traveling abroad for spring break is "potentially not a good idea." He also said students planning to travel domestically should consider their destinations carefully.

"Within the United States, you just need to be smart," Abbott said. "Do they need to travel? Are they traveling into a COVID hot spot? Are they traveling to an area where there is no indication of COVID whatsoever?"

Still, the banning of large gatherings and closures of many bars and dine-in restaurants within the state appear to have discouraged spring breakers from road tripping to the beach.

Over at South Padre Island, Mayor Patrick McNulty issued a local state of disaster declaration Monday night, in addition to a ban on large gatherings like in Port Aransas.

Special events permits, including those for spring break events, were rescinded, McNulty said in his declaration.

A petition on days before urged South Padre officials to ban large gatherings and had more than 900,000 signatures in favor of the ban before it was put into affect.

Mark Westbrook, one of the operators of Blackbeards’ Restaurant, said South Padre Island looked about the same as other Texas beaches Tuesday: bare of spring breakers.

"Business is definitely not normal," Westbrook said. "There are way more families here than college kids. Everything was business as normal up until March 14, that’s when everything started to change."

Westbrook said city officials would likely shut down the dinning halls of restaurants in South Padre Island in the coming days. While it may help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Westbrook said the service industry will suffer greatly.

"The summer season is what gets us through the whole year," Westbrook said. "It’s going to hit us hard. Some people say we will live to see another day. I say we will live to sell another shrimp."