DeSoto County has seen significantly more total deaths so far this year than recent years.
Current data from the state health department shows that, from January to October, 2020 has seen 241 more total deaths than the average number of deaths reported during that period over the last five years — a 20% increase.
In a normal year, DeSoto County would expect about 1,200 deaths to be reported through the month of October. This year, 1,447 deaths have been reported in that period.
These figures include all deaths in the county — whether related to COVID-19 or not.
The increase has grown significantly since July, just after COVID-19 cases spiked in the county. At this time, 110 deaths in the county have been attributed to COVID-19, according to the state health department.
In July, there were 42 more deaths than the average of the last five years, a 35% increase. August saw 49 more deaths than normal, a 40% increase. In September, 51 more deaths were reported than the average of recent years, a 47% increase. October’s reported death total was 38 more than normal, a 31% increase.
This comes at a time when the county coroner, among other elected officials, has downplayed the virus, saying that “a very large majority” of COVID-19 deaths have little or nothing to do with the virus.
“Though COVID 19 is real and we have no doubt seen some tragedy from it the majority of people who don’t have major medical problems or a prior terminal illness are surviving this virus or the total death numbers each month would be drastically higher than normal,” Pounders said in a Facebook post, which was shared over 200 times.
Pounders said in the post that the coroner’s office completed 152 death certificates in November, which would be a 26% increase in deaths compared to average reported over the last five years, or 31 more deaths than usual.
Pounders declined to be interviewed for this article.
After this article was originally published online, Pounders shared it on Facebook in a post that suggested the 20% increase in deaths in 2020 over the average of the last five years was because of an increase in population.
DeSoto County has had a population increase of less than 2% each year since 2016, according to U.S. Census data.
“I want the public to ask Desoto times and it’s pitiful excuse for a news paper how many thousands of people we have had move into Desoto County over the last 5 years each year and get Desoto times and the Department of Health to admit how many deaths in Desoto county have been filed with the state that have had no other major medical problems prior to being positive for COVID,” he said in the post.
Pounders made a similar post six days later, saying that he felt the increase in population was the cause of the increased hospitalization in the area.
Health experts across the county, state and nation agree that the novel coronavirus is the primary factor causing the historic demand for health care resources.
The increased number of deaths in the county is in line with the increase observed at the state level. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has previously said that the state has seen about 20% more deaths so far this year than expected.
Dobbs said that this increase over prior years likely points to an undercount of deaths caused by COVID-19, as well as deaths which were indirectly caused by the virus, like health care systems being overburdened and unable to properly serve patients.
The number of excess deaths in DeSoto County could increase even more in the last two months of the year, especially as the virus spreads faster than ever and hospitals are stretched by historic demand.
Even though the year is not over, the total number of deaths reported in the county has already exceeded the number of deaths reported over the entire year of 2015 (when 1,404 deaths were reported) and the entire year of 2016 (when 1,428 deaths were reported).