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The number of new Covid-19 infections in rural counties has dropped to its lowest level in 14 months, while Covid-related deaths dropped to their lowest rate in a year.

New cases of Covid-19 in rural counties fell 15% last week, to 14,200. The last time there were so few new cases in a one-week period in rural counties was mid-April 2020, when more than half of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties still hadn’t reported their first case of Covid-19.

Deaths from Covid-19 in rural counties last week totaled 395, a decrease of 25% from the week before.

Infections in rural counties are down nearly 95% from the pandemic’s U.S. peak in January. New infections in metropolitan counties are down by a similar rate.

This week’s Daily Yonder analysis of Covid-19 in rural America covers the Sunday, June 13, through Saturday, June 19.

State Reports

  • Missouri led the nation in rural infections last week, with a rate of 88 new cases per 100,000 rural residents. Missouri had 23 of its 81 rural counties on the red-zone list, with clusters in northern and south-central parts of the state. The red-zone is defined as having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in a one-week period. The White House Covid-19 task force has advised localities on the red-zone list to take additional measures to contain the virus.
  • Texas added six rural counties to the red-zone list last week and now has 28 counties in the red zone. Red-zone counties are clustered on the Louisiana border and the Panhandle and New Mexico border regions.
  • Washington had a third of its 18 rural counties on the red-zone list last week, the highest percentage in the nation.

Rural Counties with the Highest and Lowest Rates

  • Knox County in southeast Kentucky had the highest one-week infection rate in the nation last week, at a rate of 1,181 new cases per 100,000. The number of new infections was 2.7 times higher last week than two weeks ago. Laurel County, Kentucky, which is adjacent to Knox, had the fourth-highest rural rate of new infections last week, at 770 per 100,000. Laurel County’s new cases more than doubled last week.
  • Knox and Laurel counties are two of only seven counties in the U.S. with one-week rates of over 500 new cases per 100,000 in population. (Counties with over 500 new cases per 100,000 for the week are shown in black on the map.)
  • Stewart County, Georgia, and Hutchinson County, Texas, each had new-infection rates over 900 per 100,000. Bristol Bay Borough in Alaska had a new infection rate of 717 per 100,000. The remaining counties with rates over 500 per 100,000 residents for the week were Hockley and Reeves counties in Texas.
  • More than a quarter of all nonmetropolitan counties had no new Covid-19 infections last week.

National Rates of Infections and Deaths

Rural counties continued to have slightly higher rates of infections and deaths than metropolitan counties. (See graphs below.)

Data Anomalies

  • Tennessee improved last week after leading the nation in its rate of new infections two weeks ago. The sharp improvement, following a week of high case numbers, may indicate that the one-week aberration was the result of data reporting changes and not underlying changes in Covid-19 transmission.
  • Nebraska has not reported Covid-19 infections or deaths for the past three weeks.
  • Florida released three weeks of data last week, causing a statistical spike in its cases.