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The number of new Covid-19 infections in rural America dropped slightly last week, but a high infection rate in rural Missouri is contributing to the state’s status as a national hotspot.

Nationally, new infections in rural counties dropped by 2% last week, from 14,200 cases two weeks ago to 13,983 last week.

Covid-related deaths in rural counties also declined, falling by 20%, to 395 – the lowest number of fatalities since the earliest days of the pandemic in March 2021.

But in Missouri, the rural infection rate climbed 17%, to 104 new cases per 100,000 residents for the week. That’s comparable to the rate the nation experienced this spring just before vaccines became widely available, but only about a fifth of the rate of spread at the height of the winter surge. The metropolitan rate in Missouri is lower but also climbing.

This week’s Daily Yonder analysis of Covid-19 in rural America covers Sunday, June 20, through Saturday, June 26. USA Facts provides the data used in this report.

  • A third of Missouri’s 81 rural counties were in the red zone last week, meaning they had rates of new infections of 100 or more new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents. The White House coronavirus task force says localities on the red-zone list should take additional measures to contain the virus.
  • Missouri’s red-zone counties cluster in the southwest surrounding Springfield and in the north near the Iowa border.
  • Cases also climbed in nearby Arkansas, where three additional rural counties were added to the red-zone list along the border with Missouri last week.
  • Nationally, the number of rural counties on the red-zone list held steady at 117. At the height of the pandemic in January, about 95% of the nation’s 1,976 nonmetropolitan counties was on the red-zone list.
  • Besides Missouri and Arkansas, an additional 18 states had an increase in their rural infection rates. Twenty-six states saw a decrease in their rural infection rates. (For the fourth consecutive week, data from Nebraska was not available.)
  • The number of counties that reported no new cases of Covid-19 last week grew to 734 from 698 to weeks ago. On the map at the top of the page, counties with no new cases are shown in white for nonmetro and light gray for metro.
  • Tennessee and Kentucky had the largest reduction in new infections last week. Tennessee’s statewide infection county dropped by 43%, and Kentucky’s dropped by 40%.