The number of new Covid-19 infections in rural counties fell by 20% for the second week in a row, dropping to levels not seen since early November.

The number of Covid-related deaths also declined, after reaching a record-setting high two weeks ago.

The changes are in line with national data that shows the current Covid-19 surge, which began in rural counties in mid-September, is waning.

New infections in nonmetropolitan counties last week totaled 148,302. The number is about 36% lower than the record high set three weeks ago.

The number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 last week was 3,476. That’s 13% lower than the previous week’s death toll, which set a record high of 4,127. Since the start of the pandemic, 63,862 residents of rural America have died from causes related to Covid-19, according to the Daily Yonder’s analysis of data compiled by USA Facts.

This week’s Daily Yonder Covid-19 report covers Sunday, January 17, through Saturday, January 23.

  • For the fourth week in a row, rural America’s rate of new infections remained slightly lower than the rate in urban areas. Last week, the rural rate of new infections was 325 cases per 100,000, compared to 378 cases per 100,000 for metropolitan counties.
  • The number of counties in the “very high” category of new infections, defined as 500 or more new infections in one week, declined dramatically last week. Rural counties in the “very high” range (shown in black on the map) fell from 505 two weeks ago to 266 last week. Metro counties in that range (shown in gray on the map) fell from 336 to 189.
  • Despite improvement in infection rates, nine out of every 10 rural counties remained in the red zone – defined as 100 or more new infections per 100,000 over a seven-day period. The previous administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force advised localities in the red zone to increase measures to contain the virus.
  • The proportion of metropolitan counties in the red zone was even higher – nearly 97%.
  • The cumulative total of rural infections reached 3.6 million last week. That represents 14.7% of all U.S. cases. (The nonmetropolitan, or rural, population is 14% of the U.S. population.)
  • Deaths in rural counties represented 15.7% of all deaths in the nation last week.