The number of new Covid-19 infections in rural America jumped by nearly 50% last week, fueled primarily by increased cases in and around Missouri and in Florida.

The number of Covid-related deaths in nonmetropolitan counties also grew last week.

New infections in rural counties grew from 19,517 two weeks ago to 28,479 last week, a climb of 46%. The number of new infections in rural counties has more than doubled in the last month.

Deaths in rural counties climbed from 282 two weeks ago to 354 last week, an increase of 26%. That’s the first increase in rural deaths in two months. Covid-19 deaths are a trailing indicator, and the increase likely reflects higher rates of new infections that began one month ago.

Metropolitan counties also saw an increase in cases and deaths. Metro cases grew by 66% last week to 181,638. Metro deaths related to Covid-19 climbed by 5% to 1,1262 last week.

The Daily Yonder’s Covid-19 report covers Sunday, July 11, through Saturday, July 17. The report uses data compiled by the nonprofit USA Facts.

Case Numbers in States

  • The Delta variant of Covid-19 continues to spread in Missouri and resulted in a 40% increase in new rural cases in the state last week, climbing from 2,766 two weeks ago to 3,963 last week.  
  • Kentucky had a 92% increase in rural cases (from 731 two weeks ago to 1,404 last week). Texas rural cases increased by 64% to 2,194 new infections last week. And Florida’s rural infections grew by more than 130% to 1,399 new cases last week.
  • Alaska had a 174% increase in new cases last week. The increase represents relatively few cases (an increase from 97 new cases two weeks ago to 266 last week). But with a rural population of fewer than 240,000, the increase was enough to put the state’s rural infection rate to 112 per 100,000. (See the state-level map below for other statewide rural infection rates.)
  • Several states like Vermont, Hawaii, and Maine saw large percentage increases in rural cases. But their case numbers are so low that small growth in infections results in large percentage changes.
  • Only one state, Iowa, saw a decrease in rural infections last week. The state, which adjoins Missouri, had a 44% decrease in rural cases, down from 934 two weeks ago to 565 last week.

The Rural Red Zone

  • The Missouri surge added 16 more rural counties to the state’s red-zone list. Three-quarters of the state’s 81 rural counties are on the red-zone list. The red zone is defined as having 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents in one week’s time. In reports to states, the White House advises localities in the red zone to take additional measures to contain the virus.
  • The surge in Missouri appears to be moving into adjoining states, with the exception of Iowa. Arkansas has 42 (76%) of its rural counties on the red-zone list. Just a month ago, the state had only 10 red-zone counties.
  • Illinois added nine red-zone counties, primarily on the Missouri border. Kansas red-zone counties grew from five one month ago 21 last week, including a swath along the Missouri border.
  • Louisiana, which is part of a large swath of red-zone counties running north to Missouri, added 15 counties to the red-zone list. Nearly three quarters of the state’s 29 rural counties are on the list.
  • Iowa is the exception to the Midwestern trend. The state dropped six counties from its rural red-zone list last week.
  • The other trouble spot is Florida, where the number of rural red-zone counties jumped from six to weeks ago to 18 last week. Southern Alabama, which adjoins the Florida panhandle, added six red-zone counties last week.
  • The number of red-zone counties in Texas nearly tripled last week, from 12 to 34. But that constitutes only 20% of the state’s rural counties.