The number of new Covid-19 infections in rural counties fell by nearly 30% last week to the lowest level since October. But Covid-related deaths in rural America grew slightly, showing the lingering impact of the winter surge that peaked more than a month ago.

New cases in rural counties fell to 81,952 last week, down from 115,359 new infections the week before. The rate of new infections in rural counties has dropped by about two-thirds since its peak in the first full week of January.

Meanwhile, the number of Covid-related deaths in rural counties plateaued for the past month. Last week’s rural death count was 3,599, up by 17 deaths from two weeks ago. The rural death toll has lingered between 3,500 and 3,600 since mid-January.

In metropolitan areas, the rate of new infections also fell last week, but Covid-related deaths climbed by about 10%. There were 586,000 new infections last week in metropolitan counties and 18,071 Covid-related deaths.

The Daily Yonder’s analysis of Covid-19 in rural America covers Sunday, February 7, through Saturday, February 13.

  • All but a handful of states saw improvement in their rate of new infections in rural counties.
  • Texas’ rural new-infection rate dropped by nearly 60%. Rural infection rates dropped by more than 40% in Alabama, Wyoming, Arkansas, and North Dakota.
  • The rate of new infections in rural counties grew by 25% in Nebraska last week, however. Tennessee’s rural infection rate climbed 22% last week.
  • Other states that saw a greater than 10% increase in rural infection rates were New York, Massachusetts, and Washington. 
  • The number of rural counties in the red zone – defined as having 100 new infections in a week per 100,000 residents – fell to 1,298. That’s the lowest number recorded since October, but two-thirds of all rural counties remain in the red zone. Six weeks ago, 95% of rural counties were in the red zone.
  • The number of metropolitan counties in the red zone has also been declining, but not as dramatically. About 85% of metropolitan counties (979 of 1,165) were in the red zone last week. Six weeks ago, all but 11 of the nation’s metropolitan counties were in the red zone.
  • Missouri saw a major improvement in new infections last, with 24 rural counties dropping from the red-zone list. 
  • Other states with notable declines in the number of rural red-zone counties were Wisconsin, 23 fewer; Georgia, 22 fewer; Illinois, 19 fewer; Texas, 11 fewer; and Arkansas and Tennessee, each with 10 fewer. 
  • Only six states added rural red-zone counties. Nebraska added eight, and South Dakota added seven. Minnesota, Louisiana, and Colorado each added three counties to the red-zone list. North Carolina added one.
  • The rate of new Covid-related deaths was 7.8 per 100,000, the same as two weeks ago. 
  • The metropolitan rate of new deaths climbed last week but remained lower than the rural death rate. The rate of death in rural areas has exceeded the metropolitan rate since August 1, 2020.
  • The rural rate of new infections fell slightly below the metropolitan rate last week. Two weeks ago, rural and urban areas had identical rates of new infections.