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North Myrtle Beach city leaders are debating requiring masks be used in designated areas and stores. Here a mask is on a mannequin on Main Street on Friday. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Saturday announced the biggest single-day jump of COVID-19 cases in Horry County. 

The agency announced 214 new cases and two more deaths - a middle-aged and an elderly person - bringing our county's case total up to 2,801 cases with 44 deaths. 

The state saw 1,599 new cases and 15 more deaths, bringing the state total up to 31,850. So far, 704 South Carolinians have died because they contracted the viral disease. 

The spike in cases coincides with an uptick in cases of COVID-19 among young people, and officials have blamed the dramatic increase on people who are still failing to follow basic public health recommendations like wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing, which are both proven to be effective at slowing the spread of the virus. 

Since April 4, South Carolina has seen a 414 percent increase in newly-reported cases among 21-to-30-year-olds, and a 966 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases among those between 11 and 20-years-old, according to DHEC.

The skyrocketing numbers are not due just to an increase in testing. On Saturday, DHEC announced a record 908 COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state, breaking the last record of 906 hospitalizations set on Friday.

DHEC also announced that nearly 20 percent of the 8,170 COVID-19 tests performed in South Carolina on Friday came back positive. 

The number of new confirmed infections, hospitalizations and percent of tests coming back positive continues to fly up the charts, indicating a much sicker population, regardless of the number of tests performed in the state.

DHEC believes that for every lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, there are likely nine others who have gone undiagnosed. The agency estimates that although Horry County has hosted 2,801 lab-confirmed cases, the actual number of cases is likely above 20,000.

Because COVID-19 has no vaccine and no cure, the spread of the virus is dictated by how well people follow guidelines meant to reduce its reach. 

But far too many people are ignoring public health experts who are begging the population to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid large public gatherings. 

Masks are effective at preventing people from spreading the disease, but they're not near as effective at preventing people from catching it. That means they're most effective at slowing the spread of the virus if everyone wears them. 

Showing no symptoms is not an excuse not to wear a mask because an estimated 40 percent of COVID-19 transmission occurs before the onset of symptoms. Some people never show any symptoms at all. 

Young people are especially likely to show no symptoms, and by not wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, they can spread it around their community to more vulnerable populations who are at high risk of dying from the disease. 

Since the dramatic uptick has shown no signs of slowing down, the state has a hospital surge plan in place if needed. If the situation becomes too much for hospitals to handle, the surge plan calls for patients with less severe conditions to be moved out of larger hospital into smaller hospitals, previously closed hospitals, hotels and coliseums around the state, according to the South Carolina Hospital Association. 

On Saturday, the state's hospital bed utilization rate was 73.5 percent. Horry County's hospitalization rate was 81.4 percent.

Because of the rising numbers of COVID-19 in South Carolina and Horry County, elected officials in other states have warned residents against traveling to the Grand Strand, and six states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are requiring people coming from South Carolina to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. 

Because people are still refusing to wear masks, and because Gov. Henry McMaster has declined to enact a statewide mask mandate, citing enforceability issues, many municipalities are taking it upon themselves to help control the spread of the virus.

Both Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are researching how to do a mask-mandate ordinance. 

North Myrtle Beach is thinking about mandating masks in grocery stores and pharmacies, and strongly recommending that other retailers and restaurants make their employees wear masks. 

North Myrtle Beach will discuss their ordinance in executive session on Monday. 

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(3) comments

Suze

I absolutely hate being told what to do!! So, I have taken it upon myself to do everything I can to keep myself and others safe. I wear a mask in public and try my best to 'social distance'. I figure if I can't trust others to do the right thing, the best I can do is try to do the right thing myself. I believe that is called personal responsibility. If we all could practice that, we may be able to beat this awful virus.

The other thing I want to say is I am well aware of the important of tourist dollars to our economy. We all depend on them. I can understand the pickle the city fathers/mothers are in. There is no way to enforce these mandates, so we locals must all do our own part and hope for the best.

Let's all do our part to stay safe.

Chirita07

I'm all for requiring mask in publicly crowded places. i.e., Wal-mart, grocery stores, Target and all retail stores, etc.. Only outdoor activities should have the liberty to wear or not wear. With this being a tourist town and us allowing those from the initial hot spots, has only sped up our numbers. I watch the dolphin cruise boats, fishing boats, etc.. They are so many people on them, no way they can social distance. How can we convince people on vacation, they need to be inconvenienced with a mask? They will definitely see it that way. I can't even enjoy my own town because things are just getting a bit too real for me. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? At the moment, it's so far off in the distance, I can't see it. :( Stay safe everyone. Thanks Horry News for keeping me in the loop! :)

vlace54

I agree! I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel! Begging people to wear masks and to social distance isn't going to do it. It is my feeling that you have to start at the top with a plan that can be followed by everyone and enforced. We will never have that in South Carolina!!!![crying]

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