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After 10 weeks of growing numbers of Covid-19 infections, the weekly rate of new infections in rural counties is approaching the record rates set in January during the peak of the winter surge.

New infections in rural counties grew to 209,259 last week. That’s about 10% below the number of new infections reported during the height of the winter surge eight months ago.

Meanwhile, the metropolitan weekly infection rate dropped slightly last week, the first decrease for metropolitan counties in 10 weeks. 

Covid-related deaths increased in both rural and metropolitan counties. Rural counties reported 1,965 Covid-related deaths last week, an increase of more than 10% from two weeks ago. Metropolitan counties reported 6,024 deaths, an increase of 8%.

This week’s report on Covid-19 infections and deaths in rural America covers Sunday, August 29, through Saturday, September 4. Data is from USA Facts.

  • There are indicators that the current surge could be reaching its peak. The rate of acceleration in new infections in rural areas is lessening. New cases climbed 11% last week, compared to 17% two weeks ago. The weekly number of new rural cases was increasing by more than 50% a week the second half of July.
  • Last week’s decline in new infections in metropolitan counties could also indicate that a similar trend will follow in rural areas. 
  • But Covid-19 is more deeply entrenched in rural areas than metropolitan ones currently. The rural rate of new infections is about 50% higher than the metropolitan rate. 
  • Last week, rural counties accounted for 20% of all new Covid infection, even though only about 14% of the U.S. population lives in nonmetropolitan counties.
  • More than 90% of all U.S. counties were in the red-zone last week, meaning they had more than 100 new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents in a one-week period. The White House coronavirus task force has said localities in the red zone should take additional steps to contain the virus.
  • An additional 109 rural counties moved into the red zone last week. North Dakota added nine rural counties to the red-zone list. Texas added seven, and South Dakota added five.
  • Missouri, which was the epicenter of the current surge months ago, dropped four rural counties from the red-zone list last week.
  • Nebraska is not included in the data from USA Facts. The state no longer gives county-level information on Covid-19 for the entire state.