Rural COVID rate exceeds rural share of U.S. population

Roughly 70% of rural counties are currently “red zone” counties: the rate of new infections in a week is higher than 100 per 100,000 people.

Rural communities are bearing the brunt of new COVID-19 cases nationwide with the pandemic in its seventh month, said a report from the Center for American Progress on Wednesday. “Since the beginning of August, the rural share of new cases has exceeded the rural share of the U.S. population.”

Roughly 70% of rural counties are currently “red zone” counties, defined as a county where the rate of new infections in a week is higher than 100 per 100,000 people, said the report. The Daily Yonder says rural counties recorded 91,961 infections last week, up 13% from the previous week and the fifth week in a row to set a record.

“The number of rural counties with new cases is decreasing in African American rural counties and is holding steady in Hispanic rural counties. However, there has been a big jump in cases in Native American rural communities, which continues to be cause for concern,” said the report. “In both the Aging Farmlands and Rural Middle America communities, there has been a startling increase in the percentage of counties that are considered red-zone counties.”

For the report, the Center for American Progress used country categories developed by the American Communities Project. “Aging Farmlands represents upper Midwest and northern Great Plains states that have elderly populations and little diversity and contain mostly agricultural lands. Rural Middle America represents upper Midwestern states and Northeastern states that are majority-white and middle-income and have average college graduation rates,” it said.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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