Socially distanced classroom

Last week, DeSoto County Schools saw its worst week yet in terms of new COVID-19 cases and quarantines in staff and students. 

The district reported 119 total new cases, with 81 students and 38 staff members testing positive for the virus.

Additionally, 755 students were quarantined last week following possible exposure, a steep increase from last week’s 406 new student quarantines.

This is the worst week of new cases since the beginning of the school year. For the first nine weeks, the district recorded some of the lowest numbers of cases per capita in the state. 

“New positive student cases were averaging between 0.1% and 0.2% of the in-person enrollment in previous weeks, and last week the percentage of new student cases was around 0.3% of the in-person enrollment,” DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Cory Uselton said in an email.

Uselton noted that he contacted the medical task force team, and in looking at the number, determined they coincide with a rise in cases in the larger community.

He said many factors go into deciding whether a district should go virtual after a rise in new cases, but he did not see the district going virtual in the immediate future.

"There are no plans at this time to move to virtual learning," Uselton said in an email. "If virtual learning is needed in the future, we would consider it on a campus-by-campus basis if at all possible."

This comes as COVID-19 is spreading through the county faster than ever before, according to the number of new cases reported each day.

Though some of those cases represent a backlog in reporting, most of them represent recent tests in the community, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

DeSoto County’s rate of transmission is nearly double the threshold of a “critical” community, according to one model used by health experts. This means the county “is either actively experiencing an outbreak or is at extreme risk.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, DeSoto County has reported 8,912 cases and 87 deaths. In the last week, five county residents have died from the virus, and nearly 700 new cases have been reported.

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