The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday announced a record 687 new cases of COVID-19 reported in a single day, with another 13 deaths, bringing the state's count up to 16,441 cases with 588 deaths
Horry County was home to 47 of the new cases, bringing the local total up 849 cases with 33 deaths. Accounting for undiagnosed cases, DHEC estimates that Horry County been home to more than 6,000 cases, and more than 117,000 cases statewide.
Thursday's announcement of 687 new cases broke the previous new case record of 531 cases reported on Wednesday. Cases and hospitalizations have been spiking locally and across the state, with DHEC calling Horry County a "hotspot" on Monday. Horry County's hospital capacity was just under 90 percent on Thursday. Different local hospitals have said they normally operate at anywhere from around 80 percent capacity up to almost 100 percent capacity during the summer.
"We cannot stress enough how critical it is for easy and every one of us to wear a mask," said DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Joan Duwve. "These precautions, in particular masks and social distancing, are our playbook for how to stop the virus. I can’t stress enough that it is absolutely necessary if we want to get ahead of this virus."
The cases and hospitalizations began to spike roughly two weeks after Memorial Day weekend, and after bars, restaurants, barbershops and other shuttered businesses have reopened. DHEC officials have said there's no single answer for the reason in the spike that has occurred, speculating that it's likely due to increasing tourism and community spread as too many residents fail to practice social distancing and wear masks.
“Rest assured that this is something we’re going to see continue," Duwve said. "We are seeing outbreaks that are related to any time people get together in close proximity and don’t social distance and don’t wear a mask. I know we’re all looking for that one answer, but believe me, we’re going to continue to see this until we practice what we’re preaching.”
The state has been ramping up testing, but DHEC has not been including the results of anti-body test in its total case count, the agency said in a Thursday news release. Anti-body tests show people who have been infected in the past.
Previously, the anti-body tests have been included in the total number of tests the state reported, but starting Thursday, the anti-body tests will reported separately. DHEC says positive anti-body tests are not included with the state's cumulative total that was 16,441 cases on Thursday. DHEC reported a total of 1,337 positive anti-body tests as of Thursday.
For the last several days, the percent of tests that have come back positive has been above 10 percent, the threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for determining whether more testing is needed to better reflect the disease's spread. A percent positive of more than 10 percent would indicate more testing is needed to understand the full scope of the spread.
But DHEC officials have already made clear that the uptick in cases and hospitalizations won't slow down unless people began practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public and staying home if they don't feel well.
"We are anecdotally seeing people congregating and people not wearing masks. The data all fits together," said Duwve. "We do worry we’ll continue to see upward trends in the number of cases and percent-positive unless we buckle down and take this seriously.”
As the number of local COVID-19 cases continues to increase, Horry County officials are urging citizens to conduct county business online or call ahead and make an appointment rather than show up at a public building.
As of Monday, the county had 26 employees self isolating because they had either tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who had tested positive, county spokeswoman Kelly Moore said. Of those 26 workers, 10 were public safety employees.
“[We are] consistently reviewing those procedures and doing what we can to protect our employees and the members of the community that are here in our facilities,” she said.
Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones said her staff is taking precautions by asking other county departments to leave their deposits in a designated spot in her office to limit interaction.
“For their protection and ours,” she said.
However, the treasurer’s office is also continuing to help customers through the drive-thru and their services to the public have not changed.
“I can’t shut down,” she said.
On Thursday night, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune extended the city's emergency declaration for 30 days in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
"This extension does not close any businesses or impose any new restrictions or travel prohibitions," city spokesman Mark Kruea said in an email. "It acknowledges that a health emergency still exists and that precautions are advised to prevent the further spread of COVID-19."
Here are some upcoming testing events in our area.
• June 12, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. McLeod Health Center for Health and Fitness, 3207 Casey Street, Loris
• June 12, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Conway High School, 2301 Church Street, Conway
• June 13, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Myrtle Beach Pelicans Stadium, 1251 21st Avenue North, Myrtle Beach
• June 19, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Inlet Square Mall, 10125 Highway 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet
• June 24, noon - 6 p.m. Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital, 100 Water Grande Boulevard, Little River
• June 26, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Coastal Carolina University, 100 Chanticleer Drive, Conway