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New infections of Covid-19 spread in rural America at a rate 64% faster than they did in urban areas last week, a Daily Yonder analysis shows.

Rural (or nonmetropolitan) counties added approximately 154 new Covid-19 cases for every 100,000 in population from October 4-10. For the same period, metropolitan counties added new cases at a rate of about 94 new cases per 100,000 in population.

In raw numbers, metropolitan America’s new cases outnumber rural America’s by nearly 4 to 1 (265,000 urban, 71,000 rural). But the smaller population base in nonmetropolitan counties means that a greater percentage of rural residents tested positive for Covid-19 last week than did urban residents.

Since the middle of August, the number of rural cases has accelerated while the urban rate has dropped or stayed flat. Both urban and rural rates have climbed in October, but rural America’s acceleration still outstrips urban areas. The gap in infection rates has gotten bigger, not smaller.

The states with highest rural rates are clustered in the Midwest and Northern Rockies. Of the 15 states with the highest rural rate of new infections, only Tennessee lies outside those regions. (See the map at the top of this article.)

The five states with the highest rates of rural infections are South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Idaho.

Across the U.S., thirty-three states had higher rates of new infection in their nonmetropolitan counties than metropolitan ones. That’s up by three states from the previous week. Joining the list this week are Arkansas, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Massachusetts dropped off the list last week.

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