RELEASE: New CAP Brief Examines Changing Nature of the Spread of COVID-19 in Rural America

Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress examines the spread of the coronavirus in rural America and looks at the changing nature of which types of rural communities are being hit hardest. The brief comes as rural America is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Since the beginning of August, the share of new cases in rural areas has exceeded the rural share of the U.S. population, and more than half of all rural counties are considered “red zones”—meaning they are experiencing increasing rates of new infections.

The brief uses the American Communities Project’s nine rural classifications to examine which types of rural communities are being hit hardest. The brief finds that from the start of August until early October, there has been a big jump in cases in Native American rural communities, while the number of counties with new cases is decreasing in predominantly African American rural counties and is holding steady in predominantly Hispanic rural counties. There has also been a big surge in counties experiencing cases in the predominantly white, middle-income “Aging Farmlands” and “Rural Middle America” communities in the upper Midwest. At the end of September and beginning of October, more than 200 counties in Rural Middle America saw a one-week infection rate of more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

“The of level COVID-19 cases in rural America is untenable for any community to sustain a vibrant and healthy economy,” said Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at CAP and author of the brief. “Combating the virus in rural America requires rural-specific solutions, such as expanding Medicaid and preserving the Affordable Care Act, which support rural hospitals; passing significant federal fiscal relief, especially relief that supports state and local governments; and elevating rural issues and stakeholders in federal policy discussions. Economists are in broad agreement that nationwide economic recovery hinges on controlling the virus, but we cannot control the virus as a country unless we stop the spread in rural America. Policymakers need to do more to address rural America’s unique public health and economic challenges.”

Read: “Rural America Has Been Forgotten During the Coronavirus Crisis” by Olugbenga Ajilore

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