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"Desoto is on fire" | Mississippi health officials concerned after Desoto County Sheriff said he would not enforce mask mandate

"If I lived in Desoto, I wouldn't go out. I'd stay in my house as much as possible and be very, very careful,” said MS Dept. Of Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss — Desoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said he won't enforce Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ extended mask mandate in his county or issue citations for not wearing a mask.

Governor Reeves extended his order for masks to be worn in 15 counties, including Desoto and Benton counties due to the high number of new cases in those counties.

Thursday, the state health department leaders said the county is acting with defiance, but the trends in the county are concerning.

"Desoto is on fire. I mean, it's red-hot in cases, and if I lived in Desoto, I wouldn't go out. I'd stay in my house as much as possible and be very, very careful because the communities in Desoto County are absolutely eat-up with coronavirus,” said Mississippi Dept. Of Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

"We do need law enforcement officials in DeSoto County to help us with this mask mandate so we can save lives,” said Liz Sharlot with the Mississippi Dept. Of Health.

Leaders said that in areas that embraced the mask mandate, there was a rapid decline in the number of new cases being reported.

Governor Reeves also highlighted the high case count there during a briefing Thursday. 

"It's a county that over a two-week period had more positive cases than any other county in the state.  In fact, over that two-week period Desoto County had 901 cases," Governor Reeves said.  "If you go in public wear a mask, think about not only yourself but your friends and neighbors, your kids and grandkids.  If we can work together we can truly slow the spread of this virus." 

Sheriff Bill Rasco says he will not require his deputies to wear masks.  In recent photos posted to social media, deputies were not wearing them in public. 

A spokesperson with the DCSO released this statement: 

"Sheriff Rasco doesn’t force his deputies to wear masks in settings where the host or property owner doesn’t require it. However, he respects the wishes of our hosts and property owners when they request that masks be worn.  We have not issued any citations. We will not issue citations for not wearing masks nor will we enforce Governor Tate Reeves mandate on social distancing."