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A spike in rural infections last week pushed the nation to a new peak in Covid-19 cases.

Rural counties had a record 17,818 new infections on Friday, October 23. Even though metropolitan cases did not hit a record that day, rural America’s high number drove infections to a new nationwide peak of 82,887 infections in a single day.

New infections in metropolitan counties peaked in July at 71,853 cases. On October 23, metropolitan new infections were about 10% below that mark.

Rural counties also hit a one-week record for new infections last week at 91,961. That’s a 13% increase over the previous week and the fifth consecutive record-breaking week for rural counties.

The number of rural counties in the red zone improved slightly last week. Ten rural counties dropped off the list, but 1,348 counties, or about 70%, remain in the red zone.

The red zone is a term used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to designate localities where the spread of the virus is out of control. Red-zone counties have a rate of at least 100 new infections per 100,000 in population.

Metropolitan counties, which are now also seeing a rise in new cases, added 14 counties to the red-zone list, reaching a total of 644. Just under half of the nation’s 1,165 counties are on the red-zone list.

The Daily Yonder’s analysis of new Covid-19 cases covers Sunday to Saturday, October 18-24. The source of case data is the nonprofit, nonpartisan USA Facts.

Other Findings

  • Covid-related deaths grew by nearly 30% in rural counties. From Sunday to Saturday last week, 1,557 rural Americans died from Covid-related causes. The previous week, 1,210 rural Americans died.
  • The large contours of the red-zone map are similar to last week. The Great Plains, Intermountain West, and Midwest continue to have large numbers of both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties over the red-zone threshold.
  • Twenty-five states have more than half of rural counties in the red zone.
  • For the second week in a row, every county in Wisconsin is on the red-zone list.
  • Other states with 100% of their counties on the red-zone list are North Dakota and Iowa.
  • Ten states, primarily west of the Mississippi River, had all but a handful of counties in the red zone. These are South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Illinois, Tennessee, Utah, Idaho, Missouri, and Arkansas. Wyoming is a likely candidate for that list as well, but data errors in four counties complicate the state’s records for the week.
  • Minnesota sticks out this week as the only state in the Upper Midwest without a majority of counties in the red zone. The aberration is all the starker because the state went from having 84 of its 87 counties on the red-zone list two weeks ago to having only 15 on the list last week.
  • Higher infection rates have hit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula, which abuts Wisconsin, has been red for multiple weeks.