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HUNTINGTON — Five vacation-related COVID-19 cases in Cabell County and one in Putnam County are suspected as outbreaks continue to pop up across the state among people who recently traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department is investigating those cases that appear to be related to visits to the popular vacation spot, according to a news release Thursday.

The department’s case contact tracing unit is nearing the end of the interviewing process, and those affected are being advised to self-quarantine.

“We have definitely ascertained that we have travel-associated multiple cases, and we think it’s important for the public to understand that the risks of getting this disease are the same as they have been all along,” said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. “As we open up, we need to make sure we have an understanding of what risks we’re taking on and how we can continue to reduce those risks.”

Although Kilkenny said precautions should be taken when traveling or visiting family anywhere, Myrtle Beach, which sees over 19 million visitors in a typical year, has extended its state of emergency and some businesses in the area have doubled back on reopening.

On Wednesday, Horry County, South Carolina, in which the city is located, saw its highest single-day increase since the start of the crisis, with 120 new cases, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The first Myrtle Beach-related COVID-19 cases, which have now risen to 12, appeared in Preston County this week, and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department has also traced three cases of the virus to those who recently returned from the destination.

Kanawha health officials are now recommending anyone who has traveled to Myrtle Beach or surrounding destinations be tested for the virus, and officials in Putnam County said they are continuing to monitor the situation.

While Cabell County is not asking residents who have traveled to Myrtle Beach to get tested unless they are showing symptoms, it’s something Kilkenny said would be looked into.

“We are going to investigate further for any additional testing that would be available, but certainly anyone who has concerns about recent travel to Myrtle Beach and any kind of symptoms, even if they are mild, can get tested at any of the testing sites in Cabell County,” he said. “Testing is readily available in Cabell County for people with symptoms, but we would require a special authorization to test people without symptoms, and right now we do not have those authorizations.”

Testing is available at Marshall Health and Mountain Health Network locations, Valley Health, MedExpress and OVP Health facilities.

Kilkenny said in the meantime residents should continue to be cautious to protect themselves and others.

“Prevention will always beat case contact tracing in the control of an infectious disease,” Kilkenny said. “Cabell Countians have done a great job of protecting themselves, but the reopening and reconnecting we are enjoying increases our risks and requires us to pay extra attention to taking care of each other.”

Best practices like hand-washing, wearing face coverings, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding close contact in general should still be followed, and the guidance is the same, Kilkenny said. People just need to continue to act on it.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department is operating a call center to answer questions and concerns, with hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The call center can be reached at 304-526-6544.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 144,347 total laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 2,418 total cases and 88 deaths statewide.

In Ohio, there were 43,122 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the state as of 2 p.m. Thursday. There have been 2,633 deaths related to the virus.

In Kentucky, there were 13,197 cases of COVID-19 reported as of 4 p.m. Thursday, 234 of which were newly confirmed. There were also three new deaths, raising the total to 520 Kentuckians lost to the virus.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,155,572 total cases of the virus as of Thursday, with 117,632 deaths.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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