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The pace of new infections in rural America accelerated again last week, breaking the old record for new infections for the eighth consecutive week. The number of Covid-related deaths in rural counties also set a record for the fourth consecutive week.

New cases in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties climbed to 195,795 last week, a 36% increase and more than double the number of new cases that were recorded only three weeks ago.

Covid-related deaths in rural counties reached 2,026 last week, an increase of 8% from the previous week.

Eighty-six percent of rural counties are now in the red zone, meaning they have an infection rate of 100 or more new cases per 100,000 population in a single week. The red-zone definition comes from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which advises state governments to take additional measures to contain the virus when infections reach this threshold.

Because of the spike in cases, the Daily Yonder is adding a new category of county to our map. Counties with very high rates of new infection have rates that exceed 500 cases per 100,000. More than a quarter of rural counties now fall in the very-high category, and our map this week shows these counties in black (rural). Metropolitan counties with very high rates are shown in dark blue

The highest infection rates are clustered in the north central United States, encompassing the northern portions of the Midwest, Great Plains, and Intermountain West.

This week’s report covers Sunday to Saturday, November 8-14 and is based on data collected by USA Facts.

Other Highlights

  • The pandemic is still accelerating. Not only are the number of new cases rising; the rate at which cases are increasing each week is still climbing (that’s true in both rural and metropolitan counties). This acceleration has led to rapid growth in new cases. 
  • The number of rural counties that have very high infection rates (500 or more new cases per 100,000 in seven days) is rapidly growing. Three weeks ago, 310 of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties were in this category. Last week, 763 rural counties had very high infection rates.
  • The rate of new infections remains higher in rural counties than metropolitan ones. Last week, the rate of new infections in rural counties was 425 per 100,000. The rate in metropolitan counties was 286 per 100,000. The infection rate in rural counties has been higher than the metropolitan rate since the second week of August.
  • Rural counties generated nearly 20% of all new Covid-19 cases last week – about the same as the week before. Rural counties (defined here as nonmetropolitan) represent about 14% of the U.S. population. 
  • Last week a record 40 states had more than half of their rural counties on the red-zone list. Twenty-five states had more than 90% of their rural counties in the red zone.