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New Covid-19 infections increased slightly in rural America last week, the first rise in new cases in nearly two months.

The number of Covid-related deaths in rural (or nonmetropolitan) counties fell modestly during the same period.

The number of new rural infections grew by about 6% last week, to 16,741. Despite the increase, new cases remained at their lowest rate in a year. New infections are down by more than 90% in rural America since the peak of the winter surge in January.

Covid-related deaths in rural counties dropped by about 3%, from 538 two weeks ago to 524 last week. Since March 2020, 93,624 Covid-related deaths have been reported in rural counties.

In metropolitan counties, new infections fell for the ninth consecutive week, dropping by 11% to 72,071. Covid-related deaths in metropolitan counties fell by 16%, from 2,478 two weeks ago to 2,058 last week.

Only 13 states saw an increase in rural infections last week. A handful of states more than account for the higher rural numbers.

This week’s Daily Yonder report on Covid-19 in rural America covers Sunday, June 6, through Saturday, June 12. Unless otherwise noted, data is from the nonprofit USA Facts.

Tennessee Sees Big Increase in Rural Cases

  • At the top of nation for rural infections is Tennessee, where rural Covid-19 cases grew seven-fold last week, giving the state the highest rural infection rate in the nation, at 135.7 per 100,000 residents. Missouri is a distant second, with a rural infection rate of 73.8 per 100,000.
  • Tennessee’s new infections in rural counties grew from 277 two weeks ago to 2,068 last week. The number of Covid-19 tests conducted in Tennessee last week dropped slightly from the week before, according to Tennessee Department of Health data, meaning last week’s high case rate was not artificially inflated by additional testing.  
  • Tennessee’s vaccination rate was sixth from the bottom in the Daily Yonder’s most recent vaccination analysis.
  • Tennessee was also at the top of the growth in “red-zone” counties – localities where the rate of new infections for the week exceeded 100 per 100,000 residents. The White House has advised counties that exceed that threshold to take additional steps to contain the virus. Tennessee had no red-zone counties two weeks ago but had 26 last week. About half of the state’s 53 nonmetropolitan counties are in the red zone, the highest proportion in the U.S.

Other States

  • Missouri added 12 counties to the red-zone list.
  • Fifteen states decreased the number of rural counties on the red-zone list, led by Louisiana, which decreased its red-zone list by six rural counties.
  • The biggest improvement last week in rural infections was in Pennsylvania (348 fewer cases last week than two weeks ago), Michigan (down 245), and Texas (down 202).

Changes in Covid-19 Data

This week’s rural Covid-19 report was delayed by the slow release of state data to USA Facts, the nonprofit organization that has been the source of data for the Daily Yonder’s Covid-19 analysis. In an email this week, USA Facts’ data manager said most states have discontinued one or more days of reporting on the weekend. Florida, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island report data only weekly. And Nebraska is no longer providing Covid-19 data at the county level, meaning we cannot provide a rural/urban analysis for the state. We will keep you posted on data changes and how they might affect the Daily Yonder’s weekly reports.