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New Covid-19 infections in rural America fell by 20% last week, continuing a dramatic decline that began eight weeks ago.

A total of 44,528 new infections were reported in rural counties last week, the lowest level in six months.

Deaths from Covid-19 also declined by 20% in rural counties. Last week there were 1,640 Covid-related deaths in rural counties.

Since the peak of the winter surge in rural counties eight weeks ago, the number of new infections and deaths has dropped by 80% and 60% respectively.

Rural counties (defined in this story as nonmetropolitan) had a lower infection rate than metropolitan ones – 97 new cases per 100,000 residents versus 125 new cases per 100,000. The rural rate has been lower since the end of December.

Last Week Vs. Two Weeks Ago

You can move the vertical line in the middle of the image to see how the map from last week (Feb. 21-27) compares to this week’s map (Feb. 28 – March 6).

But 13 states had higher infection rates in rural areas than in metropolitan areas last week. The states with the largest difference in their rural and urban infection rates were Oregon (80% higher in rural areas), Montana (76% higher), North Dakota (58% higher), and Arkansas (53% higher).

More than 81,015 people from rural counties have died from Covid-related causes. Nearly 4.1 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in rural counties. 

This week’s rural Covid-19 report covers Sunday, February 28, through Saturday, March 6. the source of the data is USA Facts.

  • The number of rural counties on the red-zone list dropped by a quarter last week, from 907 to 679.  That’s about a third of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties. Red-zone counties have a new infection rate of 100 cases per 100,000 residents in a one-week period. Health officials advise that localities with a rate of new infections in the red zone take additional measures to contain the coronavirus.
  • The number of metropolitan counties in the red zone fell from 749 to 586 (shown in red and light red on the map above). That’s half of the nation’s 1,165 metropolitan counties.
  • Only a handful of counties remain in the “very high” category (shown in black and gray on the map), defined as having 500 new cases per 100,000 residents in a single week. Only 20 rural counties were in the very high category, down from a high of 888 counties in November. Two metropolitan counties were in the very-high category, down from a record of 513 the week of January 3.
  • Despite national improvements in the spread of Covid-19, some trouble spots remain.  Arkansas had the nation’s highest rural rate of new infections, 209 per 100,000 last week. Two-thirds of the state’s counties were in the red zone. Six of Arkansas’ counties were in the very-high category.
  • All of South Carolina’s 20 rural counties have been in the red zone for at least five weeks. Only two South Carolina counties (both metro) are not in the red zone.
  • Large numbers of counties are in the red zone in North Carolina, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
  • Other regional hotspots include Eastern Kentucky, East Texas, southeast and central Oklahoma, southern Missouri, central Colorado, and southern New Mexico.
  • Only five states added red-zone counties last week: Vermont and Michigan added two counties to the red-zone list. Massachusetts, Idaho, and Maine each added one county.
  • Texas and Georgia each had 21 fewer rural red-zone counties last week.
  • Ohio had an even bigger decrease in rural red-zone counties last week, but reporting anomalies could be the cause. Ohio went from having 22 of its rural counties on the red-zone list two weeks ago to having none on the list last week. Statewide, reported cases dropped by 80%. But surrounding states reported less than a 20% decline, and Michigan’s caseload went up by 14%. Ohio’s outlier status bears watching in future weeks.