Thomas Dobbs

Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaking to a group of reporters during a visit to DeSoto County.

Update: As of Wednesday morning, new data from Baptist DeSoto Hospital now show four open ICU beds. Across the entire Methodist LeBonheur hospital system, three ICU beds remain available. This is only a snapshot of availability, as beds become occupied and available throughout the day.

DeSoto County has no more available ICU beds in its hospitals, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

Dobbs said hospitals in the county were out of critical care beds at a press conference yesterday, where he and Gov. Tate Reeves emphasized the immediate danger the virus posed to the state and asked Mississippians to reconsider their Thanksgiving plans.

This comes as DeSoto County is pushing 100 deaths because of COVID-19 and has now reported more cases since March than any other county in the state.

Dobbs said that the death count in the state is likely an undercount and that over 5,000 more Mississippians have died so far this year than would have been projected in a normal year — 20% over the projected count.

DeSoto County’s two hospitals work as part of Memphis hospital systems, meaning that they share supplies and move patients throughout the network as needs emerge. Both of those systems, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare and Baptist Memorial Health Care, have been strained by the surge in new cases in the area.

In the past week, the two systems have reported a combined total of about 40 available ICU beds across their Memphis-area hospitals. This article will be updated as new information about the systems’ levels of available ICU beds becomes available.

In just DeSoto County’s hospitals, there are 48 total ICU beds, and 16 of those are occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to state health department metrics from Monday.

Reeves said that he would not tell Mississippians to not attend Thanksgiving, but asked that people consider the risks before attending an event.

“The risk is greater today than it has been at any time since August,” Reeves said. “We have a duty and an obligation to be smart. This is a critical time. Please be extra cautious, and please look out for your loved ones.”

Reeves pointed to several ways in which people can keep Thanksgiving safer, including only celebrating with those in your household, keeping gatherings small, having gatherings outdoors and spacing out as much as possible.

Health experts across the country have urged people to stay home during Thanksgiving, especially in places where health care systems are strained, like DeSoto County.

Reeves also announced at the press conference that he would add 19 more counties to the executive order mandating masks in public and other restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

DeSoto County has been under the mandate, which mandates measures widely supported by health experts, for weeks. The mandate started with 15 counties, then seven more were added. The 19 added yesterday now means 41 of 82 of the state’s counties are under the order.

Reeves said that he rejected the idea that a statewide mask mandate would be best for the state — even after University of Mississippi Medical Center leaders said such a mandate should be put in place.

Reeves said that statewide mask orders, lockdowns or other measures to prevent the spread are not “a silver bullet” on their own, adding that he believed the order should continue to apply only to counties where the spread of the virus meets certain criteria.

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