At Least 17 Ohio Teens Test Positive for Coronavirus After Group Trip to Myrtle Beach

More than a dozen teenagers in Ohio have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after an out-of-state trip, according to health officials.

At least 17 high school students who recently traveled to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina have contracted the highly contagious respiratory disease, Robert Sproul, deputy health commissioner of the Belmont County Health Department, told CNN.

There have also been two confirmed cases of coronavirus among people who were exposed to students who tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Belmont County Health Department.

Though there were nearly 100 participants, the trip was not a school sanctioned event, Sproul said. The vacationers returned to Ohio on the weekend of June 13.

"We knew they would travel as soon as they could. We just hoped they would be responsible with social distancing and wearing masks," Sproul told CNN, acknowledging that many teens in the Ohio area often visit Myrtle Beach for senior vacation.

"Maybe reconsider your destination," he cautioned. "If you're going to a hotspot and not taking precautions you're asking for trouble … it could happen in your town."

The number of coronavirus cases in Belmont County is expected to increase as more people who are linked to the trip or its participants get tested, according to Sproul.

The health official told NBC affiliate WMBF that the group trip also included students from West Virginia.

As of Tuesday, there have been at least 30 positive cases of coronavirus in West Virginia's Preston County related to travelers who recently visited Myrtle Beach, according to the Preston County Health Department. The cases include contact positives — people who contracted coronavirus after exposure to infected travelers upon their return home.

"This is a critical time in this outbreak. Community spread has been confirmed," the department said in a statement. "It is vital for individuals that have been told to quarantine by the health department comply with that order."

It's unclear how many of those confirmed cases in Preston County are tied to students who tested positive in Belmont County. A spokesperson for the Belmont County Health Department and Preston County Health Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

There have been at least 45,537 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Ohio, with 2,704 deaths from coronavirus-related illness, according to a New York Times database.

As for West Virginia, there have been at least 2,582 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 92 deaths.

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