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COVID's still killing hundreds of rural Americans every week, but rates are dropping after spike

The National Guard via Flickr

News brief

CDC data shows COVID-related deaths in rural America are coming down from a spike at the end of September. But death rates are still significantly higher than in urban areas.

An analysis by the Daily Yonder shows that COVID is still leading to the deaths of hundreds of rural Americans each week. The rural death rate is nearly double that of urban communities — about 42% more deaths per 100,000 rural residents in the first week of October.

“I’m not surprised to see that COVID death rates are still higher in rural vs urban America,” said Tom Mueller, a rural sociologist and demographer at the University of Oklahoma.

Even before the pandemic, he says, rural America was different.

“You have to remember they’re older communities. They have different health care needs. They have more health care needs, which is a problem as we continue to see less access to health care in rural places,” he said.

It is worth noting these numbers don’t account for age, and if they did he thinks the rural-urban death rate divide would be smaller.

Mueller speculates the death rate gap will still be there even after the pandemic. To improve this and access to health care, he says we need to attract younger neighbors by bringing in jobs or bettering internet access in rural areas.

The analysis shows that, during the week ending Oct. 5, several rural and urban counties across the Mountain West saw new COVID cases at a rate of between 100 and 500 infections per 100,000 people.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, 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 2022 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.

Emma Gibson