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New Covid-19 infections dropped by 12% in rural counties last week, bringing transmission of the coronavirus in rural America to its lowest level since July 2020.

New covid-related deaths also declined in rural counties last week, falling by 14% compared to two weeks ago.

Rural counties reported 37,502 new infections last week, compared to 42,462 two weeks ago.

There were 677 new Covid-related deaths last week, compared to 734 two weeks ago.

The declines in cases and deaths came as rural counties surpassed 4.5 million total cases of Covid-19 and 90,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic early in 2020.

This week’s Daily Yonder analysis of the coronavirus in rural America covers Sunday, May 2, to Saturday, May 8. The report is based on data provided by the nonprofit USA Facts. 

  • The number of rural counties with high rates of new infections dropped to its lowest level in eight months. The number of rural counties on the red-zone list fell to 486 last week, a decline of 79 counties. That’s about a quarter of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties.
  • The number of metropolitan counties on the red-zone list fell by 82 to 364, or about a third of the nation’s metropolitan counties.
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force defines red-zone counties as those with a new infection rate of 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents in a one-week period. The task force advises localities on the red-zone list to take additional steps to contain the virus.
  • Declines in new cases were widespread. Only nine of the 47 states with rural counties saw an increase in the number of red-zone counties.
  • Louisiana and Indiana added three counties each to the red zone list. Michigan, Maine, Washington, New Mexico added two each. Colorado, New York, and Mississippi added one each.
  • Texas had 15 fewer counties on the red-zone list last week compared to two weeks ago. North Carolina and Illinois each had eight fewer red-zone counties. And South Dakota had seven fewer counties on the red-zone list.
  • Michigan had the worst rate of new infections last week, continuing a trend that started in February. 
  • Eleven states had higher rates of new infections in rural counties than in urban ones. Topping the list with the biggest gap between rural and metropolitan infections rates was California, where the rate of new infections in rural counties was nearly twice as high as the urban rate (58.8 vs. 31.0 per 100,000 for the week).
  • Other states with significantly higher rural rates than urban ones were West Virginia (158.8 vs. 128.1 per 100,000 for the week, respectively), Virginia (79.6 vs. 63.4), and Vermont (76.1 vs. 45.4).
  • Hawaii had the lowest rural rate of new infections, at 24.9 cases per 100,000 residents for the week.
  • Michigan was the only state in the Union to have a rural test-positivity rate over 10%, an indication that testing is not adequately measuring the actual spread of the virus in the population. Michigan’s urban test-positivity rate was 9.7%. The test-positivity rate measures how effective testing programs are in detecting the actual number of cases spreading in a community. The higher the rate, the more likely it is that testing is underreporting the actual number of new cases.