The Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Areas

As the coronavirus outbreak surges across the country, many rural communities are now seeing an unprecedented spike in infections and hospitalizations.

October 26, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By clementkhlau @clemusc

Rural Pandemic

Tada Images / Shutterstock

While most discussions about COVID-19 have focused on cities, many rural communities are actually experiencing increases in infections and hospitalizations. This is very concerning, especially since these areas typically lack the medical personnel and infrastructure to address outbreaks of diseases.

As Will Stone of NPR reports in the source article, "The pandemic's grip on rural America is especially alarming because many of these less populated areas rely on small hospitals, which don't have the beds or staff to absorb a crush of patients, especially those who require high levels of care." Small hospitals have had to transfer patients to major metropolitan areas where they can receive a higher level of care or when there are simply not enough staffed beds.

The surge in rural America is not consistent across the United States. For example, some communities got hit during the spring and summer when there were big outbreaks at food processing plants. The article indicates that rural counties in states like Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska now have some of the highest rates of infections per capita in the country. COVID-19 poses unique challenges for rural areas which tend to have an older population with higher rates of poverty and chronic disease than suburban and urban areas. Also, once the pandemic gets into rural communities, containing the spread can be especially challenging because they don't have the same public health resources and staff as more urban areas.

Planetizen Correspondent Irvin Dawid has also detailed the rural experience of the pandemic throughout the long months of surges and social distancing:

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