Horry County has three confirmed cases of COVID-19, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said Sunday afternoon.
Grand Strand Health announced Sunday morning that it had a patient tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
DHEC said that all three Horry County patients were elderly. Two had known exposure to a COVID-19 patient in another state, and were in home isolation. DHEC said it is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the third patient's infection.
Six other presumptive positive cases in South Carolina bring the statewide total up to 28 cases.
The case at Grand Strand Medical Center was the first confirmed case in Horry County.
"Late last night, we were notified by [the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control] that we have a patient in our facility who tested positive for COVID-19," said Grand Strand Health spokesperson Katie Maclay "The patient is in isolation. We have been working with SCDHEC to identify and contact colleagues who may have been in contact with the patient.
"Before this patient tested positive, we had already started to screen all patients, visitors, colleagues and doctors as they enter the hospital," Maclay said. "More than a week ago, we positioned supplies at all points of entry, so that any potential symptomatic patient who arrives can be properly masked and immediately isolated."
Prior to Grand Strand's confirmed case, the hospital had instituted restrictions on who was allowed to visit, as did McLeod Health.
Beginning Sunday, visitors under 18 years-old and older than 69 years-old were not allowed in Grand Strand unless they were there for care. Only under extraordinary circumstances and with pre-approval could visitors outside the age range enter the facility. The hospital is requiring a government-issued identification for proof of age.
COVID-19 first showed up in South Carolina in Kershaw County and Charleston County on March 6, and since then, the number of presumed positive cases in South Carolina has jumped to 20 as of Sunday morning, across seven counties. A presumptive positive means a test has been confirmed positive by DHEC, but still has to be tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can take several days before the CDC confirms a positive test.
“When you hear about the first cases, or growing cases, in your community, we encourage the public to maintain their daily routines with a focus on good hygiene, including routinely washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell in a statement. "Individuals with signs of illness are asked to take seriously the recommendation to stay home from school and work and not attend public gatherings.”
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 young people are likely to be fine if they get it, older people with weaker immune systems are more susceptible.
The CDC has encouraged people to practice "social distancing," to restrict their travel and to avoid large gatherings in order to slow down the spread of the virus, which has an average incubation period of five days, but is 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 may require a hospital stay to survive.
To exercise caution, many events starting this weekend were cancelled, including North Myrtle Beach's St. Patrick's Day parade and festival, Monday After the Masters, and many others.
Horry-Georgetown Technical College announced classes from March 16 through March 20 were cancelled, and all classes after spring break will be online.
MyHorryNews has a running list of Grand Strand events that have been canceled due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, and a page dedicated to all COVID-19 news.
In preparation to the spread of the coronavirus, Surfside Beach, Conway, and Horry County all declared a localized state of emergency. Last week, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and President Donald Trump also declared states of emergencies.