‘A wake-up call:’ City of Myrtle Beach responds to COVID-19 travel warnings in WV about the Grand Strand

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW/WOWK) – Mayor Brenda Bethune says the city is closely monitoring the cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia believed to be contracted during trips to Myrtle Beach.

“We have not yet discussed any changes,” Bethune said when asked if the city is considering any changes to regulations. “However, we are monitoring the situation closely,” Bethune said.

Five counties in West Virginia are investigating cases among residents who have traveled to Myrtle Beach. Travel warnings have been issued for the area.

These counties have confirmed cases where contract tracing indicates out-of-state contact was in Myrtle Beach: Taylor County (a teen with contact traced to Myrtle Beach was announced Friday), Kanawha County, Preston County (more results are pending), Putman County, and Cabell County.

Officials in those counties are asking residents who traveled to Myrtle Beach, any beach, or any crowded vacation destination in the last two weeks to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Mark Kruea, public information director with the City of Myrtle Beach, says the travel warnings coming out of West Virginia should be a wake-up call.

“We may never know for sure whether the West Virginia cases originated here,” Kruea told News13, “but it certainly should be a wake-up call for everyone that COVID-19 is still with us and that everyone needs to take precautions to prevent the spread.”

Kruea also said the city is somewhat limited by the governor’s orders in what changes it can make to regulations. “We cannot go directly against his wishes,” Kruea said, “You might wish to pose that question to Mr. McMaster.”

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber says it is continuing to advertise Myrtle Beach in other media markets. They say they’re including “visit responsibly” messaging, encouraging tourists to follow CDC guidelines for hygiene and social distancing . 

Mark Kruea, with the city, sent this full response to News13:

“First, the daily positive test numbers we’re seeing from DHEC are for all of Horry County, not just Myrtle Beach.  Those numbers are up, which is not good, but Myrtle Beach is two percent, area-wise, of the county.  All of those positive tests are not in Myrtle Beach.  Remember, too, that Horry County is larger than the state of Rhode Island.  The point is that this isn’t just a Myrtle Beach issue.

“Second, we may never know for sure whether the West Virginia cases originated here, but it certainly should be a wake-up call for everyone that COVID-19 is still with us and that everyone needs to take precautions to prevent the spread. If that means wearing a mask in public and social distancing, then that’s what we need to do. This is a learning experience.

“Third, we’ve said frequently that things aren’t yet back to normal and that we aren’t at full strength. Our visitors are getting that message, and they are experiencing that in their hometowns, too.  With all of the above in mind, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the local communities have launched a promise that reinforces these messages.  Check out that website and make that promise to yourself, your family, your coworkers, your customers and our visitors.”

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