The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Wednesday announced another record-setting single-day jump in COVID-19 cases in Horry County.
Horry was home to 183 of the state's 1,291 new cases. DHEC also announced 10 more deaths from the disease, although none were from Horry County.
The announcement brings Horry County's cumulative total of COVID-19 cases up to 2,370 with 42 deaths.
South Carolina's total is 27,842 cases with 683 deaths.
As cases spike, public officials in other states are now warning their residents to avoid visiting the Myrtle Beach area.
"We are unfortunately in South Carolina drawing national attention for our COVID-19 numbers," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell. "In fact, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced today anyone traveling to their states from South Carolina will have to quarantine for 14 days."
Early in the pandemic, South Carolina had required people from hotspots like New York to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Today, New York has their pandemic under control while South Carolina is now a hotspot. "That is just a disturbing fact," Bell said.
Of the 8,191 tests checking for active infection that were performed Tuesday, DHEC said 15.8 percent came back positive.
DHEC says a percent-positive rate of 10 percent or more indicates a need for more testing to keep up with the spread of the disease, and the state recently announced it was upping its testing goal from 110,000 people per month to 140,000 people per month in June, July and August, and 165,000 people per month for the rest of the year.
The next big free testing event in Horry County is 10 a.m. Friday at Coastal Carolina University. Tidelands is hosting the event and will have enough testing kits for 2,500 people. No pre-screening is required.
The state's hospital capacity is currently at 73.6 percent, and 832 beds are occupied by patients who have tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.
The sharp uptick in hospitalizations and the percent-positive rate are evidence of a wide community spread. Back on June 1, the state announced percent-positive rate of less than 8 percent and 450 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Even though the state is doing more testing, a larger percentage of tests are coming back positive, meaning more and more people in each community are getting infected.
"As we increase the testing and we find more people who are infected, that tells us that we’re going in the wrong direction, that we have a sicker population," Bell said, referring to the percent of people who test positive. "That’s a strong indication that we need more prevention and control measures in our communities."
In absence of mandatory mask-wearing requirements, DHEC and public health experts are pleading with the public to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Because people can spread the virus for a week or two before showing symptoms - if they show symptoms at all - public health experts are urging people to wear masks in public. An estimated 40 percent of COVID-19 transmission occurs before the onset of symptoms.
Masks are effective at preventing wearers from spreading the disease, but they aren't as effective at protecting the person who's actually wearing the mask, meaning they're only effective if everyone wears one.
Because COVID-19 has no vaccine and no cure, DHEC says its spread can only be limited by how well residents follow guidelines in order to protect their fellow citizens.
And Bell said the piece-meal approach of each jurisdiction imposing mask-wearing guidelines ins't good enough
"As we continue to witness the rise in cases, if we work at strengthening the requirements for requiring use of masks one jurisdiction at a time… I do feel that we will not get to where we need to be quickly enough," she said. "On a statewide basis, it would be much more effective if there was something we could do statewide as quickly as possible. I do think that’s important."
DHEC encourages everyone to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, practicing good hygiene, avoiding large public gatherings and staying home when sick.