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Covid-related deaths surged 20% in rural America last week compared to two weeks ago, a Daily Yonder analysis shows.

But a slight drop in the number of new infections cases last week is one more indication that the Omicron surge is waning in rural counties, as it has been in metropolitan areas for the past two weeks.

Rural counties reported 2,567 Covid-related deaths last week, according to data from USA Facts. That’s 431 more deaths than were reported two weeks ago.

Metropolitan counties also reported an increase in Covid-related deaths last week. Approximately 13,400 metropolitan residents died from Covid-related causes last week, a 12% increase from two weeks ago.

Deaths are a trailing indicator of Covid-19, meaning they continue to rise after new infections start declining.

In the past two years, 150,400 people living in rural America have died of Covid-19. In metropolitan America, 684,000 people have died from Covid-19.

Although the number of deaths is much higher in metropolitan areas, the death rate remains higher in rural counties than in metropolitan ones because the rural population is smaller. The rural death rate is currently 17% higher than the metropolitan death rate.

New Infections

  • Rural counties reported 640,000 new infections last week, down about 14,000 from last week’s record-breaking tally. The 2% decline in new cases was the first weekly decrease in rural infections since Christmas.
  • New cases in metropolitan counties declined for the second week in a row, dropping about 16% to about 3,335,000.

The Map

  • Even though the infection is dropping nationally, the number of new cases remains extremely high compared to previous surges. In fact, the high rates make this week’s map a bit monotoned. Counties with more than 500 new cases per 100,000 residents are shown in black (rural) and gray (metropolitan). This constitutes all but a handful of counties nationally.
  • Maine remains the only state in the Union with a significant number of counties below the 500 per 100,000 infection-rate threshold.
  • The rural infection rate was higher than the metropolitan rate in 26 states last week, up from 18 states two weeks ago.
  • Louisiana had the higher rural infection rate last week, at more than 2,600 new infections per 100,000 residents. That means more than 2.6% of Louisiana’s rural residents contracted Covid-19 last week.
  • Arizona, Tennessee, and Oklahoma all had new rural infection rates over 2,000 per 100,000.
  • Maine had the lowest rural infection rate, at 432 new cases per 100,000 residents.  

Methodology

This report covers Sunday, January 20, through Saturday, January 26, 2022, with the exception of death data for Nebraska, which covers Saturday, January 19, through Friday, January 25, 2022. Data is from USA Facts, except death data for Nebraska, which is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rural is defined as nonmetropolitan, using the Office of Management and Budget’s list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas from 2013. We use rural-nonmetropolitan and urban-metropolitan synonymously.

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