Rural areas seemed immune as the coronavirus spread through cities earlier this year. Few rural cases were reported, and attention focused on the surge of illnesses and deaths in the big metro areas. But that false sense of safety is now falling apart as infection rates explode in rural areas across the country.
Of the top 25 COVID-19 hot spots that popped up in the last two weeks, 18 were in non-metropolitan counties. Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas all set records in mid-June for the number of people entering hospitals for COVID-19. Georgia’s daily reported death toll from COVID-19 was up 35% compared to three weeks earlier.
As a professor of rural sociology, I have been studying the challenges rural America faces in responding to this pandemic to improve how communities prepare and respond.