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Meatpacking plants continue to be the largest single factor in Covid-19 hotspots in rural America. But the next largest characteristic of rural America’s hardest hit counties is that they are home to large numbers of non-whites.

Of the 46 rural counties that have been hardest hit by new cases of Covid-19 in the last 30 days, 20 trace their high numbers back to meatpacking plants. Another five counties had large numbers of infections at state or federal prisons.

In most of the remaining counties in the hardest-hit list, the unifying characteristic is that non-whites constituted large proportions of the local population.

Seven counties, all located in the South, had above average numbers of African American residents. These included localities like the following: 

  • Lee County, Arkansas, where 57% of the population is African American and the new-infection rate for the last 30 days was 3,447 per 100,000. That’s the third worst new infection rate of rural counties, and the fourth worst in the nation.
  • East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, where 72% of the population is African American and the new infection rate is 2,800 per 100,000.
  • Holmes County, Mississippi, 83% African American, with a 1,360 new infection rate.

Counties with large percentage of American Indians are also on the hotspot list:

  • Buffalo County, South Dakota, home of the Crow Creek Sioux reservation, where 82% of the county’s population is American Indian and the new-infection rate of 1,937 is the 14th highest among rural counties.
  • McKinley County, New Mexico, where three quarters of the population is Indian and the new-infection rate is 1,666 per 100,000. McKinley County includes part of the Navajo Nation, which for weeks was one of the hardest hit populations in the country.
  • Nearby Apache County, Arizona; San Juan County, Utah; and Navajo County, Arizona have high new-infection rates and large proportions of American Indians.

Two counties with large proportions of Hispanic residents are also on the hotspot list:

  • Santa Cruz, Arizona, where 83% of the population is Hispanic and the new-infection rate is 1,684, the 22nd highest among rural counties.
  • Hendry County, Florida, where 40% of the population is Hispanic and the infection rate is 1,028, 45th among rural counties.

The map at the top of the page shows the rate of new infections acquired in the last 30 days in rural counties. Roll over counties to see population and infection data.

The table below lists 46 rural counties that had new-infection rates of over 1,000 per 100,000 or 1%. The table includes the most-frequently cited reason for the outbreak and links to articles that document those causes.