W.Va. virus cases linked to travel continue to rise

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Coronavirus cases in West Virginia linked to travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, continue to rise as health officials push for people to follow safety precautions.

Preston County health officials on Friday said they have now connected 16 cases to travel to the popular beach tourism spot. Across West Virginia, state officials said around 30 cases have emerged following trips to Myrtle Beach.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has repeatedly urged people to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines as he eased virus restrictions. In response to the travel-related outbreaks, Justice asked people to get tested for the virus and consider quarantining after returning to the state.

“If you opt to go to Myrtle Beach right now — or go anywhere from the standpoint of leaving our state — take the time to be tested. You may very well save a life and that life may be your own or somebody very, very close to your family,” he said during a news conference Friday.

In Kanawha County, which has reported at least six cased linked to Myrtle Beach trips, local health officials are offering free, drive-up testing at multiple sites next week.

“If you’ve traveled recently, especially to hot spot places like Myrtle Beach, we especially encourage you to be tested,” said Dr. Sherri Young, health officer and executive director of Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

At least 88 people have died from the virus in West Virginia and around 2,500 have tested positive, according to the state health department.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.

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