State health officials urge Kentuckians to be careful if they plan to travel to or have traveled to Myrtle Beach, a popular South Carolina beach, amid several recent clusters of COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia that have been directly tied to the area.

“We are seeing some concerning outbreaks that are being caused by areas where people are traveling to right now,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during his briefing on June 24. “Myrtle Beach is one area that we are seeing is causing outbreaks in other states and in Kentucky. We need people to be really careful. … We’re asking people, if you know that there’s a place where we can tell you there is a lot of outbreaks, don’t go.”

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner, said that state health officials have identified several clusters of COVID-19 cases in Kentuckians who recently traveled to Myrtle Beach in Horry County, South Carolina, over the past two or three weeks, dating back into May.

Myrtle Beach is a popular tourist destination, particularly during the summer, Stack said. The beach area reopened their hotels on May 15 and reopened attractions on May 22. About one week after reopening, case numbers began to spike in Horry County and Myrtle Beach, leading the mayor of Myrtle Beach to declare a state of emergency on June 11.

“It took less than four weeks for them to go from reopening to declaring a state of emergency,” Stack said.

Stack said that, on June 11, 12 Kentuckians traveled to Myrtle Beach and they returned three days later. He said that at least nine of the 12 Kentuckians began showing symptoms of the virus upon about four days after they returned to Kentucky, and they tested positive for COVID-19.

Stack said a second cluster of COVID-19 cases is now also believed to be directly tied to Kentuckians who traveled to Myrtle Beach recently. He also said that two clusters of cases have been identified in Virginia, directly tied to people who traveled to Myrtle Beach, and people in West Virginia who traveled there have also tested positive for the virus upon returning home.

“I have to continue to urge folks, be careful,” Stack said. “It’s not time to be cavalier because I just described a scenario where a place that was starting a reopening process went from being fine to being in a state of emergency in three weeks. The fastest way we can create a problem for ourselves is to ignore guidance like wearing masks, which is a relatively easy thing to do, continuing social distancing and maintaining proper hand hygiene.”

Stack reminded Kentuckians that it is still very important that people remember to continue taking necessary health precautions when engaging in summer activities.

“I’d like to just remind folks, as we look to the summer, we look toward June 29 and we move to Phase 3 in Kentucky for reopening more activities, it’s absolutely imperative that you follow the guidelines we’ve recommended,” Stack said.

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