Perfect Storm: Coronavirus Comes for Rural America

Rural areas are more vulnerable to coronavirus than many people think, says National Rural Health Association member Carrie Henning-Smith of the University of Minnesota. Many in the outsize rural elderly population depend on children and other family caregivers who must also work jobs outside the home. Even before COVID-19 hit, Henning-Smith’s research found that “rural caregivers were dramatically less likely to be able to work at home” than their urban counterparts, “and they had less access to sick leave and time off.” All this makes it harder for them to safely distance themselves and protect their families. A county-by-county analysis of the United States by Princeton University suggests that rural counties with high populations of people over 60 and limited access to health care facilities could eventually be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, and additional research shows that some remote counties in North Carolina are among the last without COVID-19 cases.