Reeves explains DeSoto County mask mandate

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is not too keen on DeSoto County’s approach to wearing or not wearing masks to protect residents in the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

The high incidence of coronavirus cases appearing in the state’s most-northwestern county was brought up during Reeves’ update on the state’s response to COVID-19 from the state capital on Monday, Oct. 26. 

DeSoto County was one of nine counties originally placed in a mask mandate last week because of the high percentage of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. A total of 17 counties now have more specific guidelines about wearing masks in publuc.

Monday, Reeves said the DeSoto County two-week rate, which determined the necessity for masks in public, was past the 400 mark.  

“A county has to have more than 200 cases over a two-week period per 100,000 population,” Reeves said. “For transparency, the data we are using is the two-week period from Oct. 5-18. DeSoto County had 760 cases between Oct. 5-18 and even for one of the more populated counties, that’s 410 per 100,000 residents. I don’t recall at any time during this pandemic one of our largest counties having a higher number of cases per 100,000 residents.”

State health official Dr. Thomas Dobbs went so far as to say the county prefers not to follow guidelines as well as other locations.  

“There has been a little more reluctance in DeSoto County to embrace the things we know that work,” Dobbs said. “It’s a very simple equation.”

Reeves at least reminded reporters of the unique situation DeSoto County is in, being the only county in the state immediately adjacent to and part of a major metropolitan area not found elsewhere.

Shelby County, Tenn. is also seeing rising cases. With people living and working on both sides of the state line, infections from each area can certainly be brought over and Mississippi can’t mandate what happens outside its border.  

“If you look at Tennessee and Arkansas, they did not fare the same as we did back in the summer, but the number of cases in Tennessee and Arkansas and Oklahoma are up,” Reeves said. “DeSoto County seems to be trending like Tennessee and Arkansas and it may be the metropolitan area, the greater Memphis metropolitan area is a reason for that.”

Reeves said there is a very objective set of criteria for determining a mask mandate in a county, a localized method he prefers over a blanket statement for an entire state.   

“Either you meet the threshold or you don’t,” Reeves said. “If you live anywhere in Mississippi and you want to be in the game to help us reduce the risk of the spread and overwhelming the healthcare system and if you go out in public, wear a mask, stay socially distant, don’t stay close to each other, don’t have big events for social purposes.”

As of Tuesday, DeSoto County had reported 7,210 positive cases of coronavirus and 79 deaths. By contrast, Hinds County has 8,011 cases and 179 deaths.  

The state of Mississippi has had 116,617 cases and 3,283 victims connected to COVID-19.  

Shelby County, Tennessee Tuesday had 36,793 cases and 566 deaths. That’s an addition of 301 cases from the previous day and three additional deaths. 

You can view the entire news conference from Monday on Tate Reeves’ Facebook page.

The comments regarding DeSoto County begin at the 55:00 mark of the video.  

(Contact desotocountynews@gmail.com)

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