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While the number of new Covid-19 infections in rural America continued to decline last week, the number of Covid-related deaths grew for the second week in row.

New infections in rural America dropped by 18% last week, marking the sixth consecutive week of declining cases in the nation’s nonmetropolitan counties. Cases fell from 25,876 two weeks ago to 21,179 last week, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of data provided by USA Facts.

During the same period, new Covid-related deaths in rural counties grew by about 25%, from 681 two weeks ago to 849 last week. Deaths have grown by 40% over the past three weeks in rural counties, while climbing only 4% in metropolitan counties.

Oklahoma had the largest number of Covid-related deaths in rural counties last week, with 152. The next greatest numbers of rural deaths were in New Mexico, 90; Michigan, 53; and Georgia, 51.

Maryland, where only about 3% of the population lives in a rural county, had the highest rate of rural Covid-related deaths last week. The 30 rural deaths there equaled a rate of 19.9 deaths per 100,000 residents. The next highest rural death rates were in New Mexico, 13.1 per 100,000; and Oklahoma, 11.4 per 100,000.

Nationally, the rural Covid-19 death rate last week was 38% higher than the metropolitan death rate (1.8 per 100,000 residents vs, 1.3 per 100,000 residents)

The Daily Yonder’s analysis of Covid-19 in rural America covers May 23-29, 2021.

  • New cases in rural counties were at their lowest point in nearly a year and were down 91% from the peak, which occurred in January.
  • Rural deaths, while increasing for the past two weeks, were still about 80% below the peak of 4,127 deaths set in mid-January.
  • The number of rural counties on the red-zone list dropped by about a quarter last week, from 259 to 197. Red-zone counties are defined as having 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents in a one-week period. The White House Covid-19 team says that counties on the red-zone list should take additional measures to contain the coronavirus.
  • Montana added the largest number of rural counties to the red-zone list last week, with seven. Missouri added six, and Washington added 5.
  • Michigan, a recent hotspot for the virus, dropped 20 rural counties from its red-zone list. Only 20% of the state’s 57 nonmetropolitan counties were on the red-zone list last week. Just a month ago, all but three of the state’s rural counties were on the red-zone list.
  • Washington became the new rural red-zone leader last week, with more than half of its 18 nonmetropolitan counties on the list.
  • West Virginia had the highest rate of new infections last week, at 113 per 100,000 residents. Washington was a close second at 108 per 100,000. (Washington had the highest metropolitan new-infection rate, at 108 per 100,000).
  • Half of the nations’ 1,976 rural counties saw decreases in infections last week. About a quarter of rural counties had an increase in cases, while another quarter had little change.

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