Thinking about getting COVID-19 tested after Thanksgiving?

Tidelands Health medical professionals conduct a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in July at Myrtle Beach Pelicans Ballpark.

Tidelands Health medical professionals conduct a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in July at Myrtle Beach Pelicans Ballpark.

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On the Grand Strand, pleas from the health community for people to not travel for Thanksgiving went unheard.

The percentage of visitors skyrocketed far above last year’s as people flocked to the beach for Turkey Day even as coronavirus cases in the county soar. The area has not seen a positive test rate below 10% in weeks.

For Nov. 21-27, the Myrtle Beach area saw 65.2% of vacation rental properties booked, more than 20 points above the same time frame for 2019, according to Coastal Carolina University’s weekly lodging update.

If these visitors have any effect on the Myrtle Beach area’s coronavirus cases, it may not be seen for weeks, as the virus can take up to two weeks to show symptoms in some people.

Myrtle Beach’s airport also saw an expected a high number, though not higher than 2019, of departures for Thanksgiving as people left to visit family and friends for the holiday. Airports and planes have been identified as some of the most high-risk environments for exposure to the pandemic due to the lack of air circulation and close proximity to others.

The impact may be seen far beyond the Grand Strand as well. In June, when the region was labeled a pandemic hot spot by health experts and national media outlets, public health officials connected cases as far away as Ohio and Virginia to people visiting Horry County to hit the beach.

As for the current picture of the pandemic, Horry County added 45 new cases and one new death Sunday, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The county has is at 79.8% hospital occupancy with 132 beds available.

New Year’s Day may paint a similar picture for the tourism in the Myrtle Beach area. Reservations for the weekly vacation rental properties currently sit at 51.2% booked, up from 43% last year for that period, CCU’s data showed.

Anyone looking to get tested after traveling for the holiday is recommended to wait a seven days, Tidelands Health’s top doctor Gerald Harmon previously told The Sun News. People can be exposed but not test positive for four to seven days, he said, and a test immediately after getting back might create a false sense of security.

During that time, Harmon said it’s best to quarantine away from others to prevent the spread of the coronavirus should you test positive later on.

Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Political Communication. He began working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has bylines in three of the state’s largest print media outlets as well as the Texas Tribune covering state politics, the environment, housing and the LGBTQ+ community.

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