FRANKFORT, Ky. — As states across the U.S. begin to reopen, many areas are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases. Kentucky officials are urging caution after identifying clusters of positive COVID-19 patients who have recently traveled to areas with outbreaks.
“Myrtle Beach is one area that we are seeing causing outbreaks in other states and in Kentucky. We need people to be really careful,” Governor Andy Beshear said during a briefing on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the state issued a travel advisory for Kentuckians who have visited Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the past two weeks. The Department of Public Health is advising them to quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms are present, the person should be tested for the virus.
Recent travelers should watch for the following symptoms:
- A fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
- Respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
- Loss of smell or taste
According to Dr. Steven Stack with the Kentucky Department for Public Health, several COVID-19 patients in Kentucky and West Virginia have been identified with direct ties to Myrtle Beach travel, which has become a hotspot for the virus.
“If you or someone to whom you are close has been to Myrtle Beach in the past two weeks, please be aware that you have a good probability of having been exposed to the novel coronavirus," said Dr. Stack in a release.“Please avoid contact with those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and anyone with significant medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease.”
On May 15, Myrtle Beach reopened hotels, and attractions reopened on May 22. About a week later, Horry County, South Carolina, where Myrtle Beach is located, reported an increase in positive COVID-19 cases. The mayor of Myrtle Beach declared a state of emergency on June 11.
“I have to continue to urge and beg folks, be careful. It’s not time to be cavalier, because I just described a scenario where a place that was just starting a reopening process went from being fine to a state of emergency in three weeks,” Dr. Stack said during a briefing Wednesday.
Twelve Kentuckians traveled to Myrtle Beach on June 11 and returned home on June 14. At least nine of those people tested positive for COVID-19 and began showing symptoms as soon as four days after returning.
Dr. Stack also said a second cluster in Kentucky believed to be tied to Myrtle Beach has been identified, as well as another individual who tested positive after traveling there.
West Virginia issued a health alert after identifying a cluster of patients who traveled to Myrtle Beach, and the next day a second cluster was identified.
Gov. Beshear mentioned states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who have put quarantine guidelines in place for people who travel to areas with a certain threshold of positive cases. The governor said Kentucky does not need to do that yet, but asked Kentuckians not to travel to areas where there is a known outbreak occurring.
Dr. Stack urged people to continue following guidance provided by the state and CDC.
“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, maintaining social distancing and having proper hand hygiene,” Dr. Stack said.