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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.

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