Click individual counties for last week's data. A full-page version of the map is also available.


The number of new Covid-19 cases increased modestly last week in rural counties, marking the fourth consecutive week of rising infection rates, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

The number of Covid-related deaths in rural counties also rose but remained a fraction of the death rate seen during previous phases of the pandemic.

Metropolitan counties reported similar trends, the analysis shows.

The actual number of new infections nationwide is likely much higher than the official tally. That’s because of gaps in reporting from some states and widespread at-home testing, which is typically not part of official reports. The change in reporting methods means that data may be useful for identifying general trends in the current spread of Covid-19 but is less useful for comparing current levels of infection to previous phases of the pandemic.

Even with a substantial undercount in new cases, 80% of all rural counties are in the red zone, defined as having 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents in a seven-day period. The percentage of red-zone counties is even higher in metropolitan counties – over 90%.

That means the current variants of the Covid-19 virus are widespread and well established, despite the lower official rate of new cases.

The death rate, which is not subject to the same reporting gaps as the infection rate, remains relatively low in both rural and metropolitan areas. Possible explanations for the lower death rate include wider immunity (either from vaccinations or previous infections) or less lethal strains of the virus.

Rural counties reported 476 deaths from Covid-19 last week, up 14% from two weeks ago. Metropolitan counties reported 2,383 deaths, up 17% from two weeks ago.

The rate of Covid-19 deaths remained higher in rural areas than in metropolitan ones. Last week’s rural death rate of 1.03 deaths per 100,000 residents was about 20% higher than the metropolitan death rate of 0.84 deaths per 100,000 residents.

In the last year, rural counties have had a higher death rate than metropolitan counties for all but one week.

The cumulative death rate is currently more than a third higher in rural counties than metropolitan ones.

This analysis covers Tuesday, July 12, through Monday, July 18, 2022. Data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community profile report. Rural is defined as nonmetropolitan, meaning counties that are not part of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (OMB, 2013). For more information about rural definitions, visit the website of the USDA Economic Research Service.

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