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Despite tentative indications that the current wave of the pandemic might be cresting in rural America, Covid-19 continued last week to dig into the rural counties that were already bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

These regions (shown in red on the map) include the Mid- to Deep South, the Southwest, Western Indian Country, and Midwestern counties with meatpacking plants or prisons.

These “red zone” communities, while containing less than half of the nation’s rural population, accounted for three-quarters of the new cases and deaths originating in rural counties last week.

(Red zone is a White House term defined as counties with a new-case rate of 100 or more per 100,000 over a one-week period.)

This Daily Yonder analysis of Covid-19 in rural (or nonmetropolitan) counties compares the week of August 8-15 to the previous week, August 1-8.

For the second week in a row, the overall number of new cases in rural America fell. From about 53,500 new cases two weeks ago, the number declined by 2.9% to about 52,000 new cases last week.

But the number of deaths in rural counties climbed by 22% over the same period, from 1,023 two weeks ago to 1,248 last week. This increase likely reflects the growth in rural infection-rates earlier in the summer. In total, 12,548 people from rural counties have died from Covid-19, according to USA Facts.

The number of rural counties on the red-zone list climbed by four last week, to 738, after dropping from a high of 746 three weeks ago.

The pandemic also showed signs of deepening in these hard-hit counties. The number of new infections in rural red-zone counties increased by 4% in the last week, from 38,800 two weeks ago to 40,300 last week.

Most of the rural counties that have been hard-hit by the pandemic have endured a month or more of high rates of new infections. More than half of the rural red-zone counties have been on the list for four weeks or more.  A quarter of rural red-zone counties have been on the list for seven weeks or more.

The South is the hardest hit region, both for rural and metropolitan counties. All but seven of the 131 rural counties that have been on the red-zone list for eight weeks or more are in the Mid-South, Deep South, or Texas. Of the 127 metropolitan counties that have been on the red-zone list for eight weeks or more, all but 19 were in those states.

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