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Updated 6:11 a.m. Eastern, 10/20/20

Covid-19 spread in rural America at a record-breaking pace again last week, adding 160 counties to the red-zone list and bringing the total number of rural Americans who have tested positive for the coronavirus to more than 1 million.

Nearly 70% of the nation’s 1,976 rural (nonmetropolitan) counties are now in the red zone, a term used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to designate localities where the spread of the virus is out of control. Red-zone counties have a rate of at least 100 new infections per 100,000 in population.

Rural America had 82,188 new infections last week, a 16% increase and the fourth consecutive week of record-breaking levels of new cases. With last week’s cases, the total number of rural residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus broke 1 million (1,068,949), according to data compiled by the nonprofit USA Facts.

The rate of new infections in rural counties now exceeds the urban rate by 63%, according to this week’s Daily Yonder analysis, which covers Sunday, October 11, through Saturday, October 17.

Daily Yonder analysis/Data: USA Facts

Here are other highlights from this week’s analysis:

  • The number of rural counties on the red-zone list grew to 1,358, last week, breaking the record of 1,198 set just the week before.
  • Metropolitan areas also broke a record for red-zone counties last week. The metro red-zone list grew to 630, or 54% of the nation’s metropolitan counties. New metropolitan cases surpassed 300,000 last week. That was an increase of 17% from the previous week but still falls short of the 400,000 new cases that metro counties added at the height of the July wave.
  • Rural counties’ share of new cases continues to outpace the new caseload being experienced in metro counties. Last week, 21.3% or new cases originated in rural counties. Only 14% of the U.S. population lives in nonmetropolitan counties.
  • Deaths in rural counties totaled 1,277 for last week, an increase in the death toll by 94. In all, the deaths of 22,556 residents of rural America are attributed to Covid-19.
  • Ninety percent of rural America’s new cases originated in red-zone counties last week. About two-thirds of metropolitan cases originated in red-zone counties.
  • UPDATE: Wisconsin became the first state since Florida earlier this year to have all its rural counties in the red zone (46 of 46). It surpassed South Dakota, which has had 98% of its rural counties in the red zone the previous two weeks (57 of 58 counties).
  • Twenty-three states have more than half of their rural counties in the red zone. The table below lists states by the number of rural counties in the red zone.

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