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For the first time since May, the number of new Covid-19 infections in rural counties declined week to week.

The decline is one of several indications that the most recent coronavirus surge may have peaked in rural areas.

The number of deaths, however, is still increasing.

Rural America (defined in this story as counties that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area) had a 6% decline in new coronavirus infections from August 1-8. Rural counties had approximately 54,000 new cases during the period.

The number of new cases in metropolitan counties started to decrease several weeks ago while the virus’ surge continued in rural areas. Metro counties had 314,000 new cases last week, a drop of 17% from the previous week.

The map shows so-called “red zone” counties – a White House definition designating counties where the new infection rate per 100,000 residents is more than 100 for a one-week period.

There are other indications that the rural surge is relenting:

  • The number of rural counties in red zones dropped from 746 last week to 734 this week.
  • Nearly two-thirds of all rural counties with new cases this week had a lower infection rate August 1-8 than they did the previous week.
  • From August 1-8, only 817 rural counties had an increase in their new-case rate. The previous week, 888 rural counties had a higher new-case rate.

The virus remains firmly entrenched in some rural areas, however. More than 560 rural counties were on the red-zone list for each of the last two weeks. And about 280 rural counties have been on the red-zone list five weeks in a row.

Despite the improvements, the number of deaths from Covid-19 in rural areas increased over the last week. The number of deaths in a one-week period grew by 52% August 1-8, with 1,035 fatalities. The total number of rural residents who have died from Covid-19 stands at 11,313. That’s about 7% of the nation’s overall death toll of approximately 160,000 as of August 8.

Rural counties had a 70% increase in deaths from the end of June to the end of July.