New cases of Covid-19 in rural America fell for the seventh consecutive week, reaching the lowest level in 10 months, a Daily Yonder analysis shows.
New infections dropped by more than 40% last week. Rural (nonmetropolitan) counties reported just over 38,100 new cases from Sunday, March 6, through Saturday, March 12.
In metropolitan counties, new infections fell by about 25%, totaling 176,300 for the week.
The rate of Covid-related deaths remained steady last week. Rural counties reported 1,755 deaths last week, nine more than two weeks ago.
Covid-related deaths in metropolitan counties fell about 5%, to 6,520 for the week.
Since the start of the pandemic, 166,578 rural residents have died from Covid-19. Metropolitan counties have reported 752,609 deaths. The cumulative death rate from the pandemic is about a third higher in rural counties than in metropolitan ones.
Only four states had appreciable increases in their rural infection rates last week. These were Minnesota (where rural cases more than doubled compared to two weeks ago), Alaska (up 74%), Wyoming (up 60%), and Arizona (up 59%). (Vermont had the biggest improvement on paper [95%], but much of the improvement was the result of record-keeping adjustments from two weeks ago, not changes on the ground.)
The rest of the country saw steady rural rates or dramatic improvement. New infections in Montana and Kentucky fell by more than 80%. Nebraska's rural infections fell by about 74%.
Alaska had the highest rate of new rural infections, at nearly 500 new cases per 100,000 for the week. Idaho was second, with 427 new cases per 100,000 rural residents for the week. Minnesota had the third-highest rural infection rate (240 new cases per 100,000 for the week) because of rapid increases compared to two weeks ago.
Data and Methods
Now that new infections have declined significantly since the peak of the Omicron surge, differences in reporting methods from state to state can have a bigger impact on the bottom line, making head-to-head comparisons more difficult. The wide availability of at-home testing, which frequently is not part of county-level tallies, may also be affecting the data.
Data for this report is generally from USA Facts. Florida and Nebraska have stopped reporting deaths in ways that are captured via USA Facts, however. So for these states, we used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also this week, we used CDC infections data for the state of Tennessee because of a data aberration.
For our Covid-19 analysis, we define rural as nonmetropolitan counties, according to the Office of Management and Budget 2013 list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas.