DeSoto County COVID-19 Updates
- DeSoto County sees more new daily cases per capita than major metro areas across the U.S.
- Few or no ICU beds are available in the county; some hospitals in the state have waitlists for critical care.
- Health experts say it will get worse before getting better.
With well over 10,000 cases, over 100 deaths, few or no ICU beds available and a moving average of over 100 new cases reported each day, the pandemic is worse than ever in DeSoto County, according to several measures.
After the county recently set a new record for the moving average of the most new daily cases, averaging 118 new cases each day over the last seven days, the state health department expanded COVID-19 testing in the area.
“I do think (the pandemic is) at the worst that it’s ever been, at least for our region,” Dr. Shailesh Patel, the chief medical officer at Methodist Olive Branch, said in a press conference on Wednesday.
DeSoto County now has a higher average of new daily cases per capita than Shelby County, Los Angeles County, New York County and Miami-Dade County.
The pandemic is also worsening across much of Mississippi.
In a Wednesday health alert from Dobbs, he urged Mississippians to avoid any nonessential social gatherings, including weddings, funerals, parties, sporting events, church services or any other gathering outside of the nuclear household.
A health alert indicates the highest level of importance and warrants immediate attention from recipients. Though Dobbs addressed the alert to physicians and health care providers statewide, he shared the alert on social media as well.
“All residents of Mississippi should avoid any social gathering that includes individuals outside of the nuclear family or household,” Dobbs wrote in the tweet. “MSDH recommends that Mississippians only participate in work, school or other absolutely essential activities.”
Access to testing has increased in the county in recent weeks, from a few days per week from the state health department to five days per week. The test positivity rate has also increased significantly. Since September, test positivity rates in the county have nearly doubled.
Testing from the state health department is now available at the county health department in Hernando, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
These numbers do not yet reflect the impacts of Thanksgiving traveling and gatherings, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Many health care officials have suggested that the spread of the virus, as well as the strain on the health care system, will get worse before it gets better.
Christmas is “not going to be any better and probably will be worse,” Dobbs said at a Tuesday press conference.
Though there is “light at the end of the tunnel” because of promising vaccine results, the next several months — in which many people will likely remain unvaccinated — will be critical to protecting the health care system and vulnerable people in the state, according to Dobbs.
At the time of publication, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) has reported 10,563 cases of COVID-19 and 104 deaths from the virus in the county since March.
In the last seven days, over 830 new cases have been reported in the county. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 154 new cases were reported in the county.
Hospitals in the area have been stretched thin, and the number of available ICU beds across the Methodist and Baptist hospital systems has become limited over the last week. At some points, there have been no available ICU beds in the county.
The most recent data from the MSDH shows one available ICU bed in DeSoto County. Though the hospitals in the county also share resources with other hospitals in their systems, the larger systems are also being stretched by demand. At one point last week, the entire Methodist LeBonheur hospital system — including its hospitals in both Memphis and in DeSoto County — had no available ICU beds.
The Methodist hospital system is also constantly searching for more staff to keep up with the demand — hiring 71 nurses through a seasonal hiring program. The system is also looking for nurses from other countries to staff the hospitals in the area, Dr. Patel said.
“They’re tapping into every avenue they know of to get enough help,” he said.
The total number of COVID-19 patients in Mississippi hospitals reached an all-time high this week, with over 1,000 current inpatients testing positive for the virus. Reeves said that this rise is, in part, because of an improved testing infrastructure.
Some patients have not been able to get critical care in a timely manner because there have not been enough resources in the state, Dobbs said. Surrounding states are experiencing similar shortages as well.
“This is truly serious,” Dobbs said in a tweet this week as he announced the record level of inpatients with the virus. “Protect yourselves and your family now. And we all know how.”
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Tuesday that 13 more counties would be added to the mask mandate. The executive order remains in effect in DeSoto County.
“It’s bad,” Reeves said at the press conference. “It’s bad everywhere. It’s certainly bad here.”
No counties that were already part of the mask mandate were taken off the updated order. Now, over half of the counties in Mississippi are under the mandate.
Dobbs said that Mississippians should not attend any non-essential gatherings, which have caused outbreaks throughout the state.
The department of health has recently seen transmission of COVID-19 from younger, asymptomatic people to their parents or grandparents, according to Dobbs.
Reeves and Dobbs pointed to continued positive news about coming vaccines. Some vaccine shipments may be in Mississippi by the middle of this month, Reeves said. There have been very few severe side effects in trials for the vaccines so far, Dobbs said.
Reeves remained steadfast in his position of refraining from shutting down schools or small businesses. He said he would not enact a statewide mask mandate at this time.
Reeves said that Mississippians should assume that everyone they see has the virus and act accordingly.