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The rate of new Covid-19 infections in rural counties climbed more than 25% last week, primarily fueled by a surge of infections in Missouri and Arkansas, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

Missouri’s statewide rate of new infections grew by about two-thirds last week. The new-infection rate in rural counties was 10% higher than in metropolitan counties. The same was true in Arkansas, where new cases grew by nearly 50% last week.

Missouri added 18 rural counties to its red-zone list last week. The red zone is defined as having 100 or more new infections per 100,000 residents in a one-week period. Nearly 60% of Missouri’s 81 nonmetropolitan counties are in the red zone. Two thirds of Arkansas’ 26 rural counties were in the red zone last week.

The number of Covid-related deaths fell for the sixth consecutive week, dropping by about 13% to 282, the lowest number in more than a year. Deaths from Covid-19 lag several weeks behind upticks in infections, so the drop in deaths last week reflects the decline in Covid infections that occurred in late spring and early summer. New Covid-19 infections fell for eight out of nine weeks in May and June.

This week’s analysis of Covid-19 in rural America covers Sunday, July 4, through Saturday, July 10. The analysis is based on data compiled by USA Facts.

  • Rural red-zone counties grew from 135 two weeks ago to 201 last week, an increase of over 50%. Besides Missouri and Arkansas, states that added the most rural counties to the red zone were Iowa (up 17), Kansas (up five), Florida (up four), and Alabama (up four).
  • Texas had 12 rural counties in the red zone, a reduction of six from the previous week.
  • Only nine states had fewer Covid-19 infections last week than two weeks ago.
  • Florida had the largest statewide increase in cases, rising by more than 8,000 cases to about 24,000 for the week. Missouri’s weekly infections grew by about 4,100, to more than 10,000 statewide. California had about 11,000 new infections last week, an increase of about 3,200 cases over the week before.
  • South Dakota had the lowest rural-infection rate, 5.8 per 100,000, last week. Other states with 10 or fewer rural cases per 100,000 were Vermont, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. (For more about state infection rates, see the map at the bottom of this article).