Dr. Shailesh Patel leaves a patient's room at Methodist-Olive Branch.


The continuing spike in new COVID-19 cases in DeSoto County could mean a grim future for the county’s health care system.

The virus, which has — just in DeSoto County — infected over 8,300 and killed 85 people, continues to spread at rates like those seen at the height of the pandemic in the summer.

Communities experiencing over 25 new daily cases per 100,000 residents are at a “critical” level of risk, according to experts. DeSoto County is now reporting an average of 46.1 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.

DeSoto County has reported more new cases per day over the last week than almost any other time during the pandemic, besides one day when a backlog of cases was reported all at once.

The Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) said in a statement that only 13% of recently reported cases came from backlogged COVID-19 tests. The statement said that the spread of the coronavirus continues to be widespread throughout the state, adding that the number of average daily deaths from the virus has increased recently.

As the holiday season approaches, public health experts are worried about family gatherings and traveling increasing transmission of the virus.

Local health care professionals are also concerned about the possibility of a crisis for hospitals in the county as transmission of the virus is spiking — all as cold and flu season nears.

Only four ICU beds are available in DeSoto County at time of publication, and only 20 staffed beds remain between the county’s two hospitals.

Though DeSoto County hospitals share beds with Memphis hospital systems, Shelby County has also seen a spike in recent COVID-19 cases, leading officials in Memphis to prepare emergency hospital beds in the building that once housed the Commercial Appeal. Last week, TheMethodist-LeBonheur Healthcare hospital network — which serves Shelby and DeSoto County — recorded a record number of patients with COVID-19.

An early analysis of a recent vaccine trial is promising, but the vast majority of Americans will not have received the vaccine by the end of the year, according to experts. If the full review of the vaccine deems it to be safe, it could be distributed around the world through the coming years.

Schools in the county have also seen a sharp rise in the number of cases over the last month. Last week, the district, which serves over 35,000 students, reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 and of 400 new student quarantines.

While some schools have only had a few cases and quarantines through the semester, other schools have reported outbreaks on sports teams or up to 80 new quarantines in a single week.

Now, as DeSoto County faces a dangerous new phase of the pandemic, health care professionals are hoping Gov. Tate Reeves’ mask mandate, which is now in effect — though largely unenforced — will lessen the risk.

Reeves, who had planned a press conference Tuesday to address the state of the pandemic in the Mississippi, has rescheduled it to a later date. He later tweeted that one of his daughters had tested positive for the virus.

Wednesday, he reissued the mask mandate for DeSoto County through Dec. 11.

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