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.

2 minute read

October 26, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By Clement Lau


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:

Thursday, October 22, 2020 in National Public Radio

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.