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August Saw Rural COVID-19 Infections Decrease Slightly, But Deaths On The Rise. What Gives?

COVID-19 infections are waning slightly in the rural U.S., but the number of deaths there is still climbing. 

That’s according to the Daily Yonder, an online news organization focused on rural issues. Comparing the first few weeks of this month, it analyzed COVID-19 data and found infections in rural counties have gone down slightly. However, it found that the number of deaths climbed by more than 20% between those first and second weeks of August. 

Thomas Jaenisch is an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Colorado. He says that difference is caused by a lag time between infection and potential death. 

“Once somebody gets sick and might need to go to hospital, it can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks until that person dies,” he said. 

However, he says don’t let the lower infections fool you either, because those numbers can be delayed as well — symptoms can take a while to show up. Beyond that, he stresses that death isn’t the only factor in how serious COVID-19 is. Emerging science shows that other vital organs face long-term consequences. 

“It affects the brain, the kidney, the heart,” he said. “Of course, there are the lungs, and if the lungs have a permanent scarring tissue, that damages the air exchange and is not going to go back to normal after the infection.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.