The State Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on Thursday 172 new cases of COVID-19, including seven in Horry County, and nine additional deaths related to the disease. None the deaths were in Horry County.
That brings South Carolina's cumulative total of COVID-19 patients to 8,189, with 371 deaths.
Horry County is home to a cumulative total of 278 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 18 who died. Accounting for undiagnosed patients, DHEC estimates there could actually be closer to 2,000 COVID-19 cases in Horry County and more than 58,000 across the state.
Our county is also one of the least-affected counties in terms of per-capita infection rates. Horry County has an average of 78.5 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents. Only eight of the state's 46 counties have a lower rate, according to DHEC data.
Part of DHEC's strategy to slow the spread of the virus is encouraging the public to wear face masks, and it launched a radio PSA Thursday to offer guidance on when and how to wear a mask.
The agency says people should wear a mask that covers the mouth and nose whenever they're in public, wash the mask after use, refrain from touching the front of the mask and wash their hands before handling their mask.
DHEC says people shouldn't use surgical masks needed by medical professionals and that masks shouldn't be used on children younger than 2 years old.
While masks aren't as effective in protecting its owner from catching the virus, they can helping the person wearing the mask protect those around them. Some people, especially younger people, can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms, and even those who do show symptoms can still spread the virus before they know they're infected.
To get a better idea of how many people in South Carolina have COVID-19, DHEC plans to test around 2 percent of the state's population, or 110,000 residents per month, and is setting up free mobile testing sites around the state.
The agency has a running list of mobile testing sites around the state on its website. The entries marked with "DHEC" are free to the public.
There are no sites currently scheduled locally, but a DHEC spokesperson said Horry County would be home to a testing site in the next several weeks.
As testing increases, the state has increased its number of contact tracers, who track down contacts of COVID-19 patients to warn them of their exposure and offer them guidance. DHEC has increased their contact tracer force from 20 to 400, with another 1,400 on retainer when needed.
The state is predicting 900 new cases a week by the end of May, with a cumulative total of 10,493 cases by May 30.
As of Thursday morning, more than 102,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in South Carolina. Horry County's hospital bed hospital bed capacity was at 74.5 percent.
South Carolina's hospital capacity is just over 68 percent. The state has 3,301 hospital beds available and 7,077 in use. Of the beds in use, 443 have patients who have tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.
State officials are still encouraging residents to stay home when possible and minimize contact with people outside their households to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
DHEC recommends practicing social distancing, wearing a mask while out in public, avoiding touching frequently-touched items, routinely washing one's hands and monitoring for symptoms.