After 10 weeks of record-breaking levels of new coronavirus cases, rural America saw a decrease in the number of new Covid-19 infections last week. But the long-awaited decline occurred during a week when more than a third of U.S. states altered their reporting schedule because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Rural counties reported new Covid-19 infections totaling 197,823 last week, November 22-28, That’s a drop of about 8% from the previous week.

But 19 states reported zero new cases on Thanksgiving Day. Five states missed at least three out of seven days’ worth of reports last week.

The autumn wave has shown some signs of weakening in recent weeks, but the Thanksgiving reporting anomalies mean it’s hard to tell if this week’s decrease reflects changes in the actual number of infections or just a foreshortened reporting schedule.

Nationally, the number of new cases that states reported on Thanksgiving Day was about 25% below the daily average for the week.

Meanwhile, the number of new Covid-19 related deaths increased last week to a record high of 2,581. That’s an 6% increase from the previous week and the fourth consecutive record high.

The Daily Yonder’s weekly analysis of Covid-19 in rural counties covers Sunday to Saturday, November 22 to 28.

  • Ninety percent of America’s 1,976 rural counties were in the red zone last week, meaning they had an infection rate of at least 100 new cases per 100,000 residents for the week. The number of rural counties on the red-zone list declined marginally, from 1,778 two weeks ago to 1,772 last week.  The red-zone definition is used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to designate localities where the virus is spreading out of control and where local officials should consider additional measures to contain it.
  • The number of rural counties with very high rates of new infections (more than 500 per 100,000 for the week) also declined, from 888 two weeks ago to 768 last week. Four out of 10 rural counties remain in the very-high category (shown in black on the map).
  • The number of metropolitan counties in the red zone increased by 25 counties last week to 1,094. That means 94% of the nation’s 1,165 metropolitan counties are in the red zone. 
  • The number of metropolitan counties with very high new infection rates (more than 500 new cases per 100,000 residents for the week) decreased from 331 two weeks ago to 307 last week. (Metropolitan counties with rates over 500 new cases per 100,000 for the week are shown in dark blue on the map.)
  • The rate of new infections and deaths continued to be higher in rural areas than in urban ones. See the graphs below for more information.