West Virginia counties tracing virus cases to Myrtle Beach

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — At least three West Virginia counties are reporting new coronavirus cases linked to travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and asked residents Thursday to take safety precautions upon returning from the popular tourism destination.

Local officials said trips to the South Carolina beach have been connected to at least 12 cases in Preston County, at least three in Kanawha County and at least five in Cabell County.

V.J. Davis, administrator of the Preston County Health Department, asked people to consider a less-traveled vacation destination and said those returning from the beach should try to self-quarantine for at least two weeks.

“If you have the option of going somewhere not quite as crowded that would probably be a good decision,” he said.

In Kanawha County, officials are urging people to get tested for the virus if they have recently gone to Myrtle Beach. A news release from the Cabell-Huntington Health Department said travelers should follow safety guidelines to curtail the spread of the virus.

Separately this week, West Virginia has seen virus outbreaks at churches in the state, including the Graystone Baptist Church in Lewisburg, which has had at least 33 cases.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has eased virus lockdowns on businesses while telling the public to wear face masks and observe social distancing guidelines as the economy reopens. His health officials have acknowledged that removing restrictions will lead to more cases.

The virus continues to drive astronomically high unemployment filings despite reopenings. Federal records released Thursday show 4,151 West Virginians filed for jobless aid last week. More than 250,000 unemployment claims have been processed in West Virginia since the pandemic forced widespread shutdowns in March.

The state health department said at least 88 people have died from the virus and 2,400 have tested positive.

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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