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New cases of Covid-19 have risen for the eighth consecutive week, reaching levels not seen since the end of January.

In the past two weeks, new Covid-19 infections in rural counties have nearly doubled, from about 70,000 three weeks ago to 137,204 new cases last week.

During the same period, Covid-related deaths in rural counties grew at an even faster rate, climbing from 368 in late July to 893 last week – an increase of more than 140%.

The surge that first emerged in Missouri in early July and spread into the Southeast is now affecting states from coast to coast. Seventy percent of the nation’s nonmetropolitan counties had higher infection rates last week than they did two weeks ago.

This week’s Daily Yonder analysis of Covid-19 in rural America covers Sunday, August 8, through Saturday, August 14. Data is from USA Facts.

  • Three quarters of the nation’s rural (nonmetropolitan) counties are now on the red-zone list, meaning they have weekly infection rates of 100 or more new cases per 100,000 population in a single week. The White House coronavirus response team states that counties that are on the red-zone list should take additional measures to contain the virus.
  • More than 400 of the nation’s red-zone counties have infection rates in the “very high” category -- 500 or more new cases per 100,000 in a single week. Those counties are shown in black (rural) and gray (metropolitan) on the map above.
  • The new epicenter of the current surge has shifted to rural Mississippi, which accounted for nearly 10% of all new rural infections last week. Every county in the state has been on the red-zone list for two weeks in a row. And the number of counties with very high infection rates (shown in gray and black on the map) grew from 26 to 68 last week.
  • Besides Mississippi, six states had all of their nonmetropolitan counties in the red zone. These were Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and South Carolina.
  • All but a handful of counties in the nation’s Southern states were in the red zone last week. States outside the South with at least 90% of their rural counties in the red zone were Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Wyoming.
  • Eleven states, all in the South, accounted for 60% of the new rural infections last week. In addition to Mississippi, which had 12,643 new infections in rural counties, those states are Texas (11,006 new rural cases), Kentucky (8,722 new rural cases), North Carolina (8,433 new rural cases), Florida (6,103 new rural cases), Tennessee (6,084 new rural cases), Arkansas (6,018 new rural cases), Missouri (5,778 new rural cases), Georgia (5,755 new rural cases), Louisiana (5,611 new rural cases), and Alabama (5,591 new rural cases).  
  • Connecticut and South Dakota had the lowest rural infection rates in the nation.
  • After months of nearly identical levels, the rural infection rate grew faster than the metropolitan infection rate last week. The rural rate of new infections was 298 cases per 100,000 for the week, slightly higher than the metro rate of 261 new cases per 100,000.
  • The rural death rate has been higher than the metro death rate since the end of the May. The gap has widened during the current surge. Last week, the rural death rate from Covid-19 was 90% higher than the metro rate (1.9 deaths per 100,000 vs. 1.0 deaths per 100,000).
  • The current surge in the pandemic is still accelerating, but not quite as quickly. New cases nationally increased 23% last week, compared to 37% two weeks ago and 52% three weeks ago.