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Factors converge for uptick in COVID-19 cases in Dan River Region, including excursions to Myrtle Beach

Factors converge for uptick in COVID-19 cases in Dan River Region, including excursions to Myrtle Beach

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South Carolina beaches fill, but COVID-19 takes no vacation

A sign in Myrtle Beach, S.C., asks people to maintain social distancing on the beach on June 18. People are flocking to South Carolina's beaches for vacation after being cooped up by COVID-19 for months. But the virus is taking no vacation as the state has rocketed into the top five in the country in cases divided by population. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

There’s a mix of reasons for the continued uptick of COVID-19 cases in the region, according to the local health director.

In a span of two days, the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District added 18 cases of the severe respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the district had 168 cases. That number jumped to 186 by Saturday morning’s data update.

While there are “all kinds of reasons,” for the increase, according to Pittsylvania-Danville Health District Director Dr. Scott Spillmann, there are three main areas that explain the recent jump.

First, there’s simple direct contact of an individual who’s tested positive for the disease.

The second factor, Spillmann said, appears to be people performing work outside of the region. For example, some residents who have worked or volunteered near Washington, D.C., have tested positive. Since they reside in the health district, the cases get counted here.

The third reason joins a growing trend in the state: vacations to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

While not having a specific number, Spillman said in a phone interview Saturday with the Register & Bee that several recent cases involved people who have vacationed at the popular East Coast destination.

As of Saturday’s report, Pittsylvania County has 107 cases. There were 82 cases a week ago on June 20. Danville is up to 79 cases; a week ago there were 72.

Spillmann also pointed to cases of people who are asymptomatic — where they show no signs of COVID-19 — and presymptomatic who are testing positive. In both cases, people can spread the disease without even knowing they are sick.

Across Virginia, there are 61,247 infections reported Saturday, an increase of 677 from Friday’s total. Those numbers include probable cases the health department classifies as people showing signs of COVID-19 who had contact with someone who’s tested positive. There are three probable cases in the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. There are 1,724 deaths reported in the state connected with the illness.

“There will be ups and downs” in the numbers, Spillmann said.

Since there’s no surefire way to ensure a person won’t be exposed to the disease aside from completely isolating at home and never going out, simple preventative measures remain the base tool to tamp down the spread.

“I will tell you that when I go out, I wear my mask,” Spillmann said, noting he’s seen a “great percentage of people not wearing masks” in public.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam mandated residents to don face coverings in public settings indoors. North Carolina adopted a similar regulation this week.

Also, the general rule of staying at least 6 feet away from others appears to be broken more often than not in public.

“As we get back together, in school, athletics and socially, there’s a good chance that there will be more people to spread” the disease, the health director said. “That doesn’t mean those actives are wrong, it just means there are risks with that.”

It’s a balancing act. For example, with the Fourth of July coming up next week, Spillmann suggests if people want to get together outside to “put their chairs farther apart and wear masks.”

Here’s another tip: If you’ve been around a group of people, wash your face, in addition to practicing the normal hygiene procedures including hand washing.

“There’s no substitute for those things,” Spillmann said.

Maintaining these strong social behaviors helped the region get over the “first hump” Spillmann said, when the overall numbers started trending downward.

“Don’t give up,” he said. “Keep taking care of yourself and care of others.”

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