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Myrtle Beach on May 3, 2020. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

State health officials on Tuesday announced 170 new cases of COVID-19 in Horry County and a total of 1,741 new cases statewide.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) also announced 17 additional COVID-19 patient deaths. Out of those 17 patients, one of them was an elderly person from Horry County. Across South Carolina, 36,297 people have tested positive for the disease and 735 have died.

“The virus is rapidly spreading across the state, with some of the largest increases in our coastal communities,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC public health director. “We’ve all given so much for so long, and we all want to be at our beautiful beaches, at our parks, our friends’ houses, our block parties and community events, but I’m asking all of us to stay vigilant in the fight against this deadly virus.

"While we celebrate our country’s birthday, please help your communities, especially those who are at increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. If we all pledge to wear our face masks, stay six feet apart, and wash our hands often, together we will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

In Horry County, 3,319 people have tested positive for the disease and 45 of those people have died. As of Monday, DHEC is reporting 84% of Horry County's hospital beds are occupied.

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, DHEC is recommending residents “make safe, responsible plans for celebrating that include precautions for protecting against the spread of COVID-19.”

More and more of the state’s positive cases are individuals who participated in group gatherings without wearing masks or keeping a safe distance from others, according to the agency.

The department said a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing is contributing to the state’s escalating numbers.

Young people are increasingly testing positive for the virus, with South Carolina seeing a 966% increase in newly reported cases among those aged 11 to 20 and 413% increase in those between 21-30.

DHEC officials support local governments and event organizers who have chosen to cancel group activities across the state in order to protect their communities from the virus.

The agency recommends families instead celebrate the holiday by planning home-based festivities and watching fireworks shows while remaining in their vehicles or tuning into celebrations virtually.

“In addition to the disheartening increases in young people transmitting the virus to their family and friends, new data indicate that asymptomatic people can spread the virus more easily than initially thought,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell. “If you’ve tested positive but don’t have symptoms, it’s imperative that you complete your quarantine period in order to not spread the virus to others while you’re contagious.”

Multiple communities in the state, including North Myrtle Beach, have passed face mask mandates.

DHEC's public lab is testing specimens every day and is operating seven days per week.

"The total number of individuals tested yesterday statewide was 9,174 (not including antibody tests) and the percent positive was 19%,” DHEC's release said.

State health officials have scheduled 64 mobile testing clinics across South Carolina through July 30 as part of an effort to reach rural and underserved communities. To find a mobile testing clinic, click here.

There are also 175 permanent COVID-19 testing facilities. To find one of those, click here.

As of Tuesday morning, the statewide hospital bed utilization rate is 71.52%, officials said. Of the 7,620 inpatient beds being used, 1,021 hold people who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are being examined for the disease.

Health officials are urging state residents to practice social distancing, wear a mask in public, avoid group gatherings, regularly wash hands and stay home if they are sick.

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