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The rate of new Covid-19 infections in rural America fell for the fifth consecutive week last week, dropping to its lowest level since June 2020. Meanwhile, the number of Covid-related deaths increased slightly last week.

The number of new infections reported in rural counties fell 18%, from 31,683 two weeks ago to 25,876 last week. New infections in rural counties have decreased for nine out of the last 12 weeks and are down about 90% from their peak in mid-January.

Covid-related deaths grew about 10% last week, from 613 two weeks ago to 681 last week. Despite the increase last week, Covid-related deaths in rural counties have also fallen nine out of the last 12 weeks and have declined by 85% since their peak in early 2021.

This week’s report on Covid-19 in rural America covers Sunday, May 16, through Saturday, May 22, and is based on data from USA Facts.

  • Improvement in rural counties was widespread last week, with three-quarters of all states having fewer infections last week than two weeks ago.
  • The number of rural counties on the red-zone list fell to 259 last week, a drop of 119 from two weeks before. About 13% of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties are currently on the red-zone list. At the height of the winter surge in January, 95% of all rural counties were on the red-zone list.
  • The red zone is defined as having a new infection rate of 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents in one week. The White House Covid-19 Team advises that localities on the red-zone list take additional steps to contain the coronavirus.
  • States that saw large declines in the number of rural counties on the red-zone list include Minnesota (down 16 counties from two weeks ago), Michigan (down 15), Pennsylvania (down 15), and West Virginia (down 13).
  • Only nine states saw an increase in the number of rural counties on the red-zone list. Kansas added six counties to its red-zone total, and Idaho added five. Other states with increases were Nevada (up three), New Mexico (up two), and Alaska (up two). Louisiana, Florida, Utah, and Georgia each added one.
  • West Virginia had the highest rural infection rate in the nation last week, at 104 per 100,000 residents. But even in West Virginia the news was good. The state’s rural infection rate dropped by about a third last week.
  • About 70% of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties had a drop in infections, had no infections, or maintained steady but low numbers of infections from two weeks ago to last week.