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After improving for nearly two months, new infections of Covid-19 increased in rural America last week. Metropolitan counties also had an increase in new cases.

Covid-related deaths rose last week in both rural and metropolitan counties, as well.

The increase in new cases was modest – just a 4% rise in rural counties, where cases rose to approximately 106,000, from about 102,000 two weeks ago. New infections in metropolitan counties rose by 8%, to 394,000.

Deaths rose at a quicker rate. In rural counties, 2,630 new deaths were reported, an increase of 14%. In metropolitan counties, deaths climbed by 12% to 7,140. Deaths from Covid-19 lag new infections, so few if any of last week’s deaths would be directly related to the new uptick in infections.

Although the increase in new cases is not dramatic, there are several signs that Covid-19 remains problematic in rural America. The rate of new infections is two-thirds higher in rural areas than urban ones. And last week’s rural death rate from Covid-19 remained 120% higher than the urban death rate.

Twenty six states saw their rural infection rate climb last week. (The metropolitan rate climbed in 22 states.) And the rural infection rate was higher than the metropolitan rate in 32 states.

The Daily Yonder measures the depth of the pandemic in individual counties are in the red zone (infection rates over 100 new cases per 100,000 in a week) and the black zone (over 500 new cases per 100,000 in a week). The number of red- and black-zone counties generally moves in the same direction. But last week, red-zone counties dropped slightly, while black-zone counties increased. (Red-zone counties are shown on the map at the top of the story in red [rural] and pink [metro]. Black-zone counties are shown in black [rural] and gray [metro].)

The Upper Midwest saw the largest increase in black-zone counties. Minnesota added 37 last week (27 rural and 20 metropolitan). Michigan added nine (seven rural and two metropolitan). Wisconsin added eight (five rural and three metropolitan).

The number of Covid-related deaths remained disproportionately rural. Rural (defined here as nonmetropolitan) counties are home to about 14% of the U.S. population but accounted for nearly 27% of the Covid-related deaths last week.