In a week truncated by the Memorial Day holiday, the total number of newly reported Covid-19 infections dropped slightly in both rural and metropolitan America, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.
The number of deaths in rural America increased by a third compared to two weeks ago but remained low compared to previous phases of the pandemic.
Rural counties reported about 48,000 new infections last week, a decline of about 9% from two weeks ago. The decline marks a break in a six-week increase in infection rates in rural counties.
In metropolitan counties, the number of new infections fell by about 13%, to 562,000.
Holidays can cause hick-ups in data collection in some states. Mississippi, for example, did not report any Covid data for the week.
Besides holiday disruptions, larger methodological issues mean the actual number of infections is likely much higher than official reports. A new study that has yet to peer-reviewed estimated that cases in New York City, for example, could be as much as 30 times greater than reported. Causes of underreporting include factors such as an increase in home-testing vs. testing at public clinics and decreased severity of symptoms because of vaccinations.
The number of people with Covid-19 who are hospitalized increased by 17% nationally over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times analysis. But hospitalization data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacks the detail necessary to determine how many people living in rural counties are hospitalized.
Rural counties reported that 525 residents died of Covid-related causes last week, up from 390 deaths two weeks ago.
In metropolitan counties, the number of deaths increased to 1,741 last week, up 25 from 1,716 two weeks ago.
Last week’s rural death rate was 85% higher than the metropolitan death rate. Since the start of the pandemic, the cumulative death rate is 35% higher in rural areas than metropolitan ones.
This article defines rural as nonmetropolitan, meaning counties that are not located within a Metropolitan Statistical Area (OMB 2013).