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Preston Health Department awaits final test results from Myrtle Beach trip

KINGWOOD — Preston County “has the potential to really blow up” with COVID-19 cases, as more are confirmed among travelers returning from Myrtle Beach, the health department said Wednesday.

Gov. Jim Justice, in his COVID-19 address Wednesday, said seven positive cases have been linked to a group of people who traveled to Myrtle Beach. That was later updated by the Preston Health Department to eight confirmed cases related to recent travel to the Myrtle Beach area.

On Tuesday, the Preston County Health Department announced the first three cases. On Wednesday, Health Department Director V.J. Davis announced five more confirmed tests from the group and said test results are pending from others.

“This has the potential to really blow up here in Preston County, and already it’s to the point where we’re waiting on a lot of test results,” Davis said.

County Health Officer Dr. Fred Conley echoed his concerns, saying it could be the worst health disaster to ever hit Preston County. Conley said the group was comprised of Preston High seniors.

The health department knows that another group of local residents is still at Myrtle.

“What we’re trying to do, at this point in time, is get the word out to any Preston County residents who traveled back from Myrtle Beach or are currently in Myrtle Beach to, if they haven’t talked to someone from the health department when they get back, to try and give us a call,” Davis said.

That includes anyone who has been at Myrtle in the last two weeks.

Health officials are asking people who return from a crowded vacation destination to quarantine as much as they can for 14 days or not be around many people, to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.

“Do everything that you can do to make sure you’re not bringing back something without even knowing it and spreading it throughout the county,” Davis said. “Because that’s what we’re finding with this current outbreak is some of these people have been everywhere.”

Asked how many people were in the group, Davis said, “We’re still trying to determine that. It seems like it gets bigger and bigger all the time.”

The department has informed close contacts of those who tested positive.

On Monday, the Preston County Board of Education will decide whether to go forward with an outdoor graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020.

“They have asked the health department to come and weigh in on that, and obviously we’ll say that we don’t think it’s a real good idea,” Davis said. He and Conley will attend the meeting.

In light of the new positives, the Preston County Commission has decided not to ease restrictions on entering the courthouse, courthouse annex or animal shelter. People will still have their temperatures taken, must answer questions about their health and must wear a mask.

County commission meetings will remain closed to the public but will be streamed on Facebook.

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