Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite took to Facebook over the weekend to push back on comments made by Governor Tate Reeves and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs on the impact of COVID-19 in DeSoto County.

You can read Musselwhite’s full write-up below.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT FOR DESOTO COUNTY…

With all the positive things happening in Southaven and Desoto County, the last thing I want to post about is COVID-19. If I may be very candid with all, I’m so tired of talking about this. So why then? Being the Mayor of the 3rd largest city in Mississippi and the largest city in North Mississippi, I owe it to people to lead with facts when misleading information is circulated. This goes even if I didn’t mention how my email, phone, and social media pages all “blow up” as well when inaccurate statements by state officials call attention to my city and county. One post saves an enormous amount of time in answering the same questions all at once that many ask.

Speaking of being tired, I’m so tired of when I simply share facts to keep the pandemic in its accurate perspective that some use a flow chart in their minds to quickly suggest that my comments mean I don’t take the virus seriously and don’t value the loss of human lives or health damage that can occur. For this reason, I will issue the following preface before I write the main purpose of my message today. So, here we go:

During this entire pandemic, I’ve stated what I will say again today. This virus is very dangerous for some of our people. Even though today’s facts show that 99.93% of all Americans, 99.90% of all Mississippians, and 99.95% of all DeSoto Countians have survived this virus, I recommend that we take this as seriously as possible because every life is precious and we don’t know yet if this virus may leave permanent health damage to those infected. So, listen to me, I recommend that we take every precaution to protect our fellow man including social distancing, hygiene, and wearing masks when you cannot keep safe distance from other people. My praise and prayers also go to all of our outstanding healthcare professionals who have worked so hard during this crisis.

Now, the purpose of my message today is to clarify misleading statements by Governor Reeves and Mississippi’s Chief Health Official, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. I mean no disrespect to either and don’t believe either has any ill intent, but both of their recent comments are, very frankly, astounding to me and not accurate at all about our city and county. Governor Reeves’ analogy and statements suggesting DeSoto County has an excessive positive case increase compared to other Mississippi heavily-populated counties are simply not correct. He stated that an almost equal number of recent cases in DeSoto County and the Jackson-Metro counties of Hinds, Rankin, and Madison suggest a higher spread rate and resulting need for mandates in DeSoto County. He cited the population of the three Jackson counties at 493,000 in comparison with DeSoto County’s 184,000. What he failed to state is what we all know, that viruses do not recognize city, county, or state boundaries. Considering DeSoto County’s adjacency to Shelby County, TN, we are by far the most heavily and densely-populated county in Mississippi totaling 1,121,000 people (184,000 for DeSoto County, 937,000 for Shelby County), more than double the population of the Jackson-area counties quoted by our Governor. Another excluded key fact is that many of the positive cases do not live in Desoto County, but just tested here due to the close proximity. When you consider these facts (combining all cases and populations for both metros), it actually shows, contrarily, that the Jackson-area counties have a similar, or even higher, spread rate recently. Also, DeSoto County has a fatality rate lower than the Mississippi average, even with the highest population density.

Again, with all due respect to Dr. Dobbs, his comment that “he would not leave his house if he lived in DeSoto County” and that hospitals have capacity problems is both misleading and simply not true. Of course we have a high number of cases because we have the highest population, combined with the fact that case numbers fluctuate for multiple reasons, namely mandatory testing by organizations for people who are not sick, but are suspected to have been exposed. Now, here are the facts about hospitals in DeSoto County:

Baptist-DeSoto…

Positive hospitalized patients-54, ICU positive patients-6, positive patients needing a ventilator-1. ICU capacity is 36 beds(with expandability) and total occupancy for all health conditions today is 29. An average occupancy, pre-COVID, is 23. This is not an unusual fluctuation. Most of these numbers are as low as all have been since March.

Methodist-Olive Branch…

17 hospitalizations, 5 ICU patients, and 4 patients on ventilators. All of which show no major increase since March.

Our hospital capacities are not challenged at this time.

In closing, I don’t have information for all of Mississippi, but am correcting Governor Reeves and Dr. Dobbs regarding their suggestions that DeSoto County has greater problems than other comparable parts of our state, and therefore, warrants government mandates. This is just not true.

Be smart, be safe, but leave your house if you want and live your life!