Covid 19 Artwork

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday announced an additional case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Horry County.

So far, the state agency has reported 456 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina across 39 counties.

DHEC also announced Thursday two additional deaths connected to the disease, bringing the state’s total number of deaths related to COVID-19 to nine.

The two patients who died most recently were elderly people with underlying health conditions, officials said. One patient was from Kershaw County and the other was from Sumter County.

“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of these individuals and to all those in South Carolina who have suffered the loss of loved ones to COVID-19,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, a physician consultant for DHEC, in a statement. “This unfortunate announcement is a reminder of the importance of taking actions to protect ourselves, our family and friends, and our community from this disease.”

There has been one COVID-19 related death reported in Horry County. That patient had no underlying health conditions. There have been 21 confirmed cases of the disease in Horry.

The fluctuation in the number of new cases from day to day reflects the availability of the chemicals needed for laboratories to perform the testing. There is a shortage of the chemicals nationwide, which can cause delays in test results.

“We must get better at our approach to controlling the spread of the disease,” said Dr. Linda Bell, the state's epidemiologist, during a news conference Thursday afternoon. 

Bell said the state has moved from a disease containment strategy to a mitigation approach, which focuses on testing a sample of the sick in a community rather than trying to identify every single case. S

"I can't stress strongly enough the importance of all of us practicing social distancing, staying home and away from other people when sick and washing our hands often, regardless of whether cases have been reported in your immediate community," she said.  

The coronavirus pandemic has caused public facilities to close, schools and universities to move online, events to be canceled and residents to stockpile supplies in preparation for long stretches indoors, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to practice social distancing, avoid public gatherings of more than 10 people and restrict travel.

All public schools in South Carolina are expected to remain closed through April.

Horry County Schools announced Wednesday that all school activities through April 30, including proms, are canceled. Spring Break is set for April 10-17.

Trinity United Methodist Church in Conway posted on Facebook Tuesday that two of their members had COVID-19 and were isolated at the hospital. Pastor Kim Strong's wife was recently released after being hospitalized for suspected COVID-19, although they haven't received the test results yet.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has asked visitors heading to South Carolina from another state who plan to stay at least two nights to self quarantine for two weeks immediately upon their arrival.

Most local governments have declared localized states of emergencies to make them eligible for federal dollars in the aftermath of the virus’ spread.

On Thursday, North Myrtle Beach City Council passed an ordinance banning short-term rentals in the city through April 30, effective Friday at 7 a.m. Short-term rentals are defined as stays of 29 days or less. Visitors who are checked in before the ordinance takes effect in can stay through the end of their reservation.

And Myrtle Beach City Council voted to bar accommodation businesses in the city such as hotels from accepting reservations for any period prior to May 1, effective immediately. Existing reservations made for Saturday through the end of April must be rescheduled or canceled. Anyone staying at those properties must vacate them by noon Sunday. Those who have stayed in those properties consistently since March 1 are exempt, but cannot be joined by visitors there. Additionally, all amusements in Myrtle Beach designed to attract or accommodate visitors are ordered to close by Friday.

Horry County Council approved a similar policy during an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon.

Myrtle Beach International Airport announced Wednesday the airport would begin temperature-screening passengers from COVID-19 hotspots and increase cleaning.

McMaster recently prohibited dine-in service at bars and restaurants in the state through the end of the month, though he is allowing eateries to sell sealed containers of beer and wine to customers, who can pick up the beverages through curbside or to-go orders.

Additionally, the state's new income tax deadline is July 15.

The governor is also asking construction workers to donate any personal protective equipment they can spare such as respirator masks to healthcare personnel and state agencies in need.

McMaster has directed the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and other police agencies in the state to disperse crowds gathered on South Carolina beaches. People can still visit the beach, but are told to practice social distancing.

Unless authorized or in their homes, individuals are instructed not to congregate in groups of three or more and follow an officer's order if asked to disperse. An offender could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Bartenders, servers and other hourly workers have been hit hard as filings for unemployment have skyrocketed, and McMaster said that he would expedite the approval process for unemployment benefits.

Horry County led the state in unemployment claims last week, as 5,258 people sought unemployment benefits in the county. That number shows people who filed claims, not those who have been approved. Statewide, the number of unemployment claims jumped by 1,600% from the previous week.

Horry County Schools has started a program to deliver food to kids who used to get lunch at the cafeteria before the pandemic forced the district to send students home.

Hospitals have imposed stringent visitor restrictions, and McMaster said DHEC would temporarily suspend certificate of need requirements to allow hospitals to add more hospital beds without going through a long, arduous approval process.

The governor said non-essential state employees must work from home, and department heads are in charge of determining which employees must come into the office.

COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December, but China didn’t confirm its existence until January. The virus reached America in late January. The disease mainly targets the respiratory system, and while the virus can still hospitalize young people, older people with weaker immune systems are more susceptible and have a higher mortality rate.

CDC officials have said the virus has an average incubation period of five days. Some cases can last for several weeks. That means younger healthy people without severe symptoms can still transfer the virus to more susceptible populations who might require a hospital stay to survive.

DHEC encourages people to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching their face and regularly clean high-use personal items. Also, individuals are asked to avoid contact with people who are sick, not share their personal items and clean frequently-touched surfaces. Those who are ill are asked to stay home from work, school and public events.

“This is a serious time that calls for serious actions,” Traxler said. “Our chance of reaching the best outcome hinges on us all doing our part.”

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