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New Covid-19 infections in rural America continued to decline last week, but Covid-related deaths jumped by nearly 20%, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

Rural counties reported nearly 3,000 Covid-related deaths last week, an increase of about 500 from two weeks ago.

The death rate in metropolitan counties also climbed, but at about half the rate of the increase in rural areas. As a result, the rural death rate is now 120% higher than the metropolitan death rate.

Last week, rural counties reported nearly 30% of the Covid-related deaths in the United States, even though they constitute only 14% of the U.S. population.

The rate of new infections is also 78% higher in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties than in metropolitan ones. Last week the gap grew slightly because new infections dropped more quickly in metro areas than rural ones.

The rural infection rate was higher than the metropolitan rate in 40 of the 47 states with rural counties. The rural death rate was higher than the metropolitan death rate in 38 states.

Regional Variation

  • Ohio had the largest number of new rural infections last week – nearly 8,591. Michigan was next with 6,819. Others in the top six were Wisconsin (5,028), Pennsylvania (4,823), Kentucky (4,783), and Minnesota (4,618). These states accounted for nearly a third of the rural infections reported last week.
  • States with the highest rural infection rates clustered in the upper West and Northwest. Alaska had the highest rural infection rate of nearly 600 new cases per 100,000 residents. Alaska’s metropolitan rate was even higher – 697 per 100,000. The other states in the top five were Wyoming (547 per 100,000), Montana (525 per 100,000), North Dakota (480 per 100,000), and Idaho (417 per 100,000).
  • Georgia, Florida, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Louisiana reported the lowest rates of new rural infections last week.

Red-Zone Counties

  • The number of counties in the red zone dropped slightly last week. The red zone is defined as having 100 new infections per 100,000 residents in one week. The White House has advised localities over this threshold to take additional steps to contain the coronavirus. Eighty percent of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties remains in the red zone.
  • The biggest change in red-zone counties occurred in the South. Texas had the biggest decrease in red-zone counties – 35. Mississippi dropped eight, and Louisiana dropped seven.
  • Only six states had a net gain in red-zone counties last week. Kansas had the biggest gain, 10. Others adding rural counties to the red-zone list were Nebraska (3), Idaho and Massachusetts (2 each), and Iowa and Oregon (1 each).
  • Fourteen states had all their rural counties in the red zone: Arizona, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • States with the lowest percentage of rural red-zone counties were Hawaii (0%), Connecticut (0%), Georgia (13%), Florida 22%), Louisiana 41%), Missouri 51%), and Texas (51%).

How This Story Defines Rural

The Daily Yonder Covid-19 analysis defines rural as nonmetropolitan counties. These are the 1,976 that are not part of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget in 2013.