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New infections and Covid-related deaths declined last week in both rural and metropolitan parts of the United States, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

New Covid-19 cases dropped by 7% in nonmetropolitan (rural) counties, falling to about 102,000 new infections, down from 109,000 two weeks ago. New rural infections have dropped for six consecutive weeks and are now at half the level they were in September at the peak of the Delta-variant surge.

Covid-related deaths in rural counties declined by more than 20%. Rural counties reported a total of 2,311 deaths, down from 2,980 two weeks ago.

Infections in metropolitan counties dropped by 3% last week to 364,000. Metropolitan deaths dropped by 23% to 6,366 for the week ending Saturday, October 30.

Despite the improvements, the current surge remains far more entrenched in rural areas than in metropolitan ones. The rural rate of new infections is about 70% higher than the metropolitan infection rate. The rural death rate is more than twice the metropolitan rate.

The Delta variant first appeared in large numbers in Missouri this summer and spread into the Southeast U.S. After traveling through the Great Lakes region and upper Midwest, the current region with the highest rural infection rates are the Northern Great Plains and Northern Rockies states.

This week’s Covid-19 analysis covers October 24-30 and is based on data from USA Facts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hardest-Hit States

  • North Dakota had the worst rural infection rate in the nation last week, at just over 500 new infections per 100,000 residents. Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, and Alaska were next highest; all had rural infection rates over 450 new infections per 100,000 for the week.
  • Florida had the nation’s worst rural death rate, at 20 deaths per 100,000 in one week. West Virginia was second with a rural death rate of 11.6 per 100,000 residents.  Idaho, Georgia, and Ohio all had rural death rates of over 8 per 100,000 residents last week.


  • Two thirds of U.S. states saw a decline in their infection rates last week. Fifteen states saw their rural infection rate increase. Alabama had the biggest one-week increase in rural infections, more than doubling from about 1,500 two weeks ago to 3,200 last week. Colorado had a 50% increase in rural cases and an even larger increase in metropolitan cases (92%).
  • New Hampshire had the biggest improvement in rural infections last week, dropping by 81%. Rural cases in Florida, Massachusetts, and Nevada all dropped by more than a third last week.

Largest Number of Rural Infections

  • Michigan had the largest number of new rural infections last week – 6,642. Ohio had nearly 6,500. Minnesota and Pennsylvania each had more than 5,000 new rural infections last week. These four states accounted for nearly a quarter of all rural infections last week.

Rural Red-Zone Counties Decline

  • The number of rural counties on the red-zone list fell by 135 last week. The red zone is defined as having 100 or more new infections per 100,000 in a one-week period. The White House has advised localities above this threshold to take additional measures to reduce infections.
  • Texas dropped 33 rural counties from the red-zone list. Arkansas dropped 13, and Oklahoma dropped 10.
  • Eight states added rural counties to the red-zone list. Alabama added three. Hawaii and North Dakota each added two. Colorado, Nebraska, New York, and South Dakota, and Vermont each added one rural red-zone county.

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