The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Sunday announced 113 new cases of COVID-19, including six in Horry County, and one additional death related to the disease. The death was from an elderly person in Marion County.
South Carolina now has 7,653 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 331 deaths.
Horry County has seen a cumulative total of 262 lab-confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, including 18 who died. DHEC believes the total number of Horry County cases could actually be more than 1,800, and close to 54,000 across the state, when accounting for undiagnosed cases.
DHEC has announced plans to increase its force of contact tracers from around 230 to around 1,000 as the agency doubles its testing capacity across the state over the next two months. Contact tracing involves interviewing COVID-19 patients and tracking down all known contacts in order to inform them of their exposure and offer guidance to help slow the spread of the virus.
The agency has launched a contact tracing webpage that describes the process as "a key strategy in the fight against COVID-19," according to a news release, and offers details about DHEC’s Contact Tracing team.
DHEC is already setting up dozens of mobile testing sites across the state that are meant to increase testing in under-served areas. There are no testing sites in Horry County, but there are seven spots in neighboring Florence County that will offer free tests to any South Carolina resident from May 11 through May 19. Sites are currently scheduled through May 22, and more sites will be added later. Click here to see a full list of testing sites.
As the state increases testing, DHEC officials expect there will be more lab-confirmed cases as people with minor symptoms or no symptoms test positive. The increase in cases won't necessarily mean the virus is spreading faster, per se, but infected people with minor symptoms who wouldn't have been included in lab-confirmed case totals under the state's previously more limited testing capacity will now be counted.
As of Sunday morning, 84,457 number of people have been tested for COVID-19 in South Carolina. Horry County's hospital bed hospital bed capacity was at just over 71 percent.
State officials are still encouraging residents to stay home 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.