Rural Counties Face 5th Straight Week of Record Number of Covid-19 Deaths

The number of new rural deaths climbed by more than 30% last week, topping 3,000 in a one-week period for the first time. New infections last week remained just below the record number of new cases set three weeks ago.

The number of people from rural counties who died from Covid-19-related causes in a one-week period topped 3,000 for the first time last week, marking the fifth consecutive week of a record-setting number of fatalities.

Rural counties broke another record last week for the number of counties in the red zone, defined as 100 new cases per week per 100,000 residents. Ninety-four percent of rural counties (1,857 out of 1,976) exceeded that threshold last week. The red-zone definition comes from the White House Coronavirus Task Force and indicates that localities have lost control of the spread of the virus.

See examples of reports from the White House Coronavirus Task Force for and the nation.

The Daily Yonder’s weekly report on the coronavirus in rural America covers the period of Sunday, November 29, through Saturday, December 5.

  • Rural counties reported 3,613 Covid-related deaths last week, an increase of 34% from the previous week, which also set a record for fatalities.
  • Cumulatively, 38,172 rural Americans have died from the virus, representing just under 14% of all Covid-related deaths in the U.S. Rural residents (defined here as people living in nonmetropolitan counties) represents just over 14% of the U.S. population.
  • The number of new infections was 211,960 last week, an increase of about 7% from the previous week. The record for new cases in rural counties (216,045) was set three weeks ago, just before Thanksgiving.
  • Cumulatively, more than 2.2 million rural residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, representing 15.6% of all infections in the U.S.
  • Although the rate of new infections continued to be worst in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Mountain West, all but a handful of U.S. counties (urban and rural) are in the red zone.
  • About 4 out of every 10 rural counties had “very high” rates of new infections, defined as more than 500 per 100,000 in a week. These counties are shown in black on the map.
  • About 3 out of 10 metropolitan counties had infection rates of more than 500 per 100,000 for the week. These counties are shown in dark blue on the map.
  • Minnesota and Indiana each had more than 90% of their counties in the “very high” category.
  • Illinois, Kansas, and South Dakota had more than 70% of all counties in the “very high” category.
  • The rural rate of new infections and deaths remained higher in rural counties than in urban ones (see graphs below).