DeSoto County Emergency Services is requesting the state set up an emergency field hospital in the county and a testing center.
EMS Director Mark Davis said with rising COVID numbers and hospital bed space strained to capacity, a field hospital will help free up its ambulances, who have experienced wait times as long as eight hours at area hospitals.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Davis said. “That would help with our ambulance problem.”
University of Mississippi Medical Center recently set up an emergency 50-bed field hospital in a parking garage to handle a surge in COVID cases which has exhausted hospital bed and intensive care unit space due to the highly transmissible delta variant, and just announced that a second one will also be set up.
Davis said DeSoto County is now averaging 107 new cases a week, up 78 cases from last week. The county has had 24,982 total cases - up 1,613 in two weeks.
“So, cases are up,” Davis said. “The delta variant does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you have been vaccinated or not.”
As of last Friday, 67,863 people in DeSoto County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 31 percent or 56,809 have received both doses.
District 3 Supervisor and board president Mark Gardner asked Davis how the new wave of COVID compares to last year’s peak.
Davis said the county is below its peak during the first wave of COVID, but escalating fast.
“Even on our uptrend the last time, it was kind of slow and gradual,” Davis said. “This one is really rocketing up.”
District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell said while the county has 16 sites listed where residents can get tested for COVID, wait times have been long.
“Sunday, the wait time at the one on Getwell was eight hours,” Caldwell said.
Davis agreed that appointment slots to get tested fill up fast.
“If you want a vaccine today in DeSoto County, you can get one within an hour,” Davis said. “Right now, if you are sick and need to get tested, it might be two or three days. There are just not enough.”
District 1 Supervisor Jessie Medlin agreed that the county needs an additional testing site.
“We need to find some way to get the tests,” Medlin said.
The board authorized Davis to reach out to Mississippi State Department of Health to ask for a testing site in DeSoto County.
Davis said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has tents that they can supply the county with for a field hospital.
There are several field hospital tents already set up across the state in Jackson and in the coastal area, Davis noted.
“They have a couple of tents in Hattiesburg,” Davis said. “They have three set up across the state already. Most of the time they bring in a tent one of those monster army tents, and they bring their air conditioning to set up.”
District 3 Supervisor Ray Denison said he likes the idea of asking the state for a field hospital.
“I would definitely be for that,” Denison said.
Davis suggested a central location like the parking lot at Landers Center, or possibly even the old jail in Hernando.
“Where we put it is something we will have to look at,” Davis said.
On a related matter, the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the local emergency declaration another 30 days to coincide with the state emergency declaration.
The board also voted to set aside $10,000 in COVID money to help pay for any additional expenses for a field hospital.
Gardner asked Davis if there was anything else the county could do to assist his staff.
“At (Methodist Healthcare Olive Branch internist) Dr. Patel’s press conference this morning he said I am working seven days a week and we often cry on each other’s shoulders because you are dealing with a lot of death and a lot of sickness,” Gardner said.
Davis asked for continued prayers as the county deals with the new challenges from the delta variant.
“Just keep us in your prayers,” Davis said. “We have been very lucky throughout all this. We haven’t had a lot (of staff) come down with this.”