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Covid-19 continued its record-breaking spread in rural counties last week, climbing by more than 16% over the previous week and placing six out of every 10 rural counties on the red-zone list.

Just over 71,000 rural Americans tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week, October 4-10, according to a Daily Yonder analysis based on data from USA Facts. The previous week’s revised total was 60,883 new cases.

An additional 140 rural counties were placed on the red-zone list last week. The red zone is a term used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to identify counties where the pandemic is out of control and where local governments should consider additional measures to contain the spread of the virus. Red-zone localities have an infection rate of 100 or more new cases per 100,000 population (1 or more cases per 1,000 residents).

Sixty-one percent of the nation’s rural counties are on the red-zone list (1,198 of 1,976 counties). In metropolitan America, about 47% of counties are on the red-zone list (538 of 1,115).

Midwest

  • The Upper Midwest continued to be the hardest hit region in the nation, with states such as North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa having all but a few of counties (both urban and rural) on the red-zone list. (See the chart below for a list of states ranked by the percentage of their rural counties that are in the red zone.)
  • Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Arkansas also had high numbers of rural red-zone counties.
  • Missouri added 12 counties to the red-zone list last week, putting 74 of 81 of its rural counties (88%) on the red-zone list.
  • Illinois added four rural red-zone counties last week and had over 80% of its 62 rural counties on the list.
  • Indiana added nine rural counties to the red-zone list last week, bringing its total to 30 of 48 (63%).
  • Ohio added six rural red-zone counties, and Michigan added nine. But red-zone counties remained a small percentage of all rural counties in those states compared to other parts of the U.S.

South

  • Although the South is doing better than it did this summer, trouble spots remain.
  • Tennessee had 94% of its rural counties (50 of 53) on the red-zone list. Statewide, 90 of 95 counties (both metro and nonmetro) were on the list.
  • North Carolina has seen a resurgence of red-zone counties. The state added five rural counties to the red zone last week, after adding 31 in the preceding two weeks, bringing its total to 40 out of 54 rural counties.
  • Mississippi gained seven rural red-zone counties last week after dropping one the week before. Nearly three quarters of the state’s 65 rural counties are on the red-zone list.
  • Kentucky added 10 rural counties to the red zone, after adding 12 the week before, bringing its total red-zone list to 53 of its 81 rural counties.
  • Florida had 16 of 23 rural counties on the red-zone list, an increase of five counties from the previous week.
  • For the first time in months, Georgia had less than half of its 85 rural counties on the red-zone list. A net of seven counties dropped off the list last week.
  • Texas added the most rural counties to the red zone list last week – 15. But only about a third of the state’s 172 rural counties were on the list.
  • Louisiana dropped 10 counties from its rural red-zone list, the largest decrease of any state last week.

Northeast

  • The Northeast continued to have fewer rural red-zone counties than any other region.
  • Pennsylvania added five rural counties to the red-zone list, but less than a quarter of the state’s 26 rural counties were on the list.
  • Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont had no rural red-zone counties.
  • New York had two of 24 rural counties on the red-zone list.

West

  • The northern Rockies and Intermountain region were the hardest hit in the West.
  • After adding 20 rural red-zone counties two weeks ago, Montana added eight more last week, putting 42 of its 51 rural counties (82%) on the list
  • Idaho had three-fourths of its 32 rural counties in the red zone.
  • Wyoming had two-thirds of its 21 rural counties in the red-zone.
  • Utah had 10 of 19 rural counties in the red zone.
  • New Mexico added five rural red-zone counties last week to bring its total to 10 out of 26 rural counties.
  • Arizona’s rural red-zone total remained steady at three of seven counties.
  • California, Oregon, and Washington clustered near the bottom of the list in the percentage of their rural counties that were on the red-zone list.

National Numbers

  • Fifty-eight rural counties had no new cases of coronavirus infection last week.
  • Just under 600 rural counties had fewer cases last week than the week before.
  • And 1,036 or about half of all rural counties saw increased rates of infections last week.
  • The remaining 290 rural counties had about the same number of cases for the past two weeks.

Deaths

  • The number of Covid-related deaths in rural America last week rose only marginally, from 1,127 two weeks ago to 1,133 last week.
  • About two thirds of the nation’s rural counties did not have a Covid-related death last week.
  • The largest number of deaths in a rural county last week was 11 in Bath County, New York. Maverick County, Texas, and Lawrence County, Missouri, each had 10 deaths.
  • McHenry County, North Dakota, had the highest rate of death (104 per 100,000) among rural counties. McHenry has 5,745 residents and is located in north central North Dakota. Eight people died there from Covid-related causes last week, according to US Facts data. The Dickinson Press of Dickinson, North Dakota, says the state is on track for its deadliest month of the pandemic.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said McHenry County, North Dakota, was in South Dakota. We’re sorry for the error.