SC beach linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases as it braces for 4th of July tourists

A South Carolina beach has been linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases across several states, as it braces for a stream of July Fourth tourists this weekend.

Scores of people have flocked to Myrtle Beach as the area reopened in mid-May, packing hotels, the beach and the boardwalk, with few wearing face masks or practicing social distancing. 

But the Grand Strand coastline region has become a coronavirus hot spot linked to about 200 people, mostly teens, in Virginia and several students from Ohio, NBC News and The Washington Post reported

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The recent uptick has prompted the governors of West Virginia and Kentucky to publicly warn residents to avoid the popular beach destination, with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) telling constituents earlier this week to “consider going somewhere else.”

Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said in a statement that those who have visited Myrtle Beach in the past two weeks “have a good probability of being exposed to the novel coronavirus,” according to the Post.

The city currently does not require masks in public spaces, but the city council is expected to vote on a potential mask mandate on Thursday. North Myrtle Beach passed a rule requiring masks in retail, service and food establishments. 

"I think the mask order is crucial, especially this weekend," Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told MSNBC. "You know, hindsight is 2020; our hotels opened back up about four weeks ago, I wish we had done it then. But we didn't have the same issues as we do today.”

Myrtle Beach, like several tourist destinations, is struggling to balance the economic boost with increased tourists versus the risks of allowing people to congregate during a pandemic. Bethune said the area is unlikely to shut down its beaches because it cannot afford to do so.

Horry County, where Myrtle Beach is located, has recorded a total of 3,319 cases, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. But that number doesn’t include the tourists who visit and unknowingly take the virus back to their home communities, the Post noted.

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Approximately 100 teens from Loudoun County, Va., have tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling to the Myrtle Beach area, and more than 100 other cases from Roanoke have been traced back to the beach, South Carolina CBS affiliate WBTW reported.  

A group of more than 45 students from Ohio’s Belmont County returned from Myrtle Beach in mid-June, and so far, 16 have tested positive for the virus, CBS News reported.

South Carolina’s case numbers have been increasing in the past couple of weeks, and the state broke its record for the most new cases counted in one day on Tuesday with 1,755 cases, according to The New York Times. In total, South Carolina has reported 36,297 cases. 

South Carolina is one of several states experiencing increases in new coronavirus cases, with Florida, Arizona and Texas also documenting record daily increases.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Fauci: It's 'entirely conceivable' we could be 'way down' on level of cases by November MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned in Tuesday testimony that the daily new case numbers could reach 100,000 per day if national action is not taken.