Explore full-page map

The rate of new Covid-19 infections in rural America dropped more than 40% last week, falling to its lowest level since the start of the new year.

Covid-related deaths fell modestly last week, declining by about 6%.

Metropolitan counties saw similar percentage declines in new infections and Covid-related deaths.

Rural counties reported approximately 221,000 new Covid-19 infections for the week ending Saturday, February 12, 2022, down from 378,000 cases two weeks ago. Since peaking three weeks ago, new infections have fallen by two-thirds in rural counties.

The rural infection rate remained higher than the metropolitan infection rate, a trend that started a month ago. Before mid-January, the metropolitan infection rate was higher because the Omicron variant struck one to two weeks earlier in urban counties than it did in rural counties.

Ninety-five percent of U.S. counties, both rural and urban, remain in the red zone, defined by the White House as having 100 or more new infections over a one-week period.

But the number of counties with very-high infection rates – 500 or more cases per 100,000 for the week – fell dramatically. The number of rural counties with very high rates (shown in black on the map above) has fallen by two-thirds since the end of January. Metropolitan counties with very high rates (shown in gray on the map) have declined nearly as much over the same period.

Deaths from Covid-19

Rural counties reported 2,700 deaths last week from Covid-related causes, down slightly from 2,900 deaths two weeks ago. Nearly 160,000 rural residents have died from Covid-19 during the pandemic.

The rural death rate was a third higher than the metropolitan death rate from Covid-19 last week. The death rate in rural counties has been higher than the metropolitan death rate since the end of May 2021 – nearly nine months.

Regional Variation

  • As the incidence of new infections declines, regional variation is becoming more pronounced. The upper South and Central Appalachia have a cluster of hotspots in both rural and urban areas. Tennessee had worst new-infection rate in both rural and metropolitan counties last week. West Virginia had the second-highest rural rate. Mississippi and Kentucky were third and fourth respectively.
  • Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, and Georgia had the lowest rural infection rates last week.
  • Only two states saw their rural infection rates rise last week. Maine’s rural infection rate grew by 18%, and California’s grew by 19%.
  • Alabama had the biggest decrease in rural infection rate last week, dropping by 77% compared to two weeks ago. Oklahoma’s rural rate fell by 65% and Indiana’s by 61%.
  • Despite rapid improvement, rural infection rates were only slightly lower than the highest rates of the winter 2021 and fall 2021 surges.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.