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Rural Americans now dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of those in urban environments: research

A study released this month found that the rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in rural areas have far surpassed those being observed in metropolitan communities, with rural mortality rates more than double that of urban ones.

The study from the Rural Policy Research Institute’s (RUPRI) Center for Rural Health Policy found that as the summer ended, the coronavirus infection and mortality rates of rural and urban communities began to diverge. 

RUPRI noted in its study that the initial surges of COVID-19 cases at the start of the pandemic were largely concentrated in urban areas. Subsequent surges saw increases in both urban and rural parts of the U.S.

“However, it was at that time that nonmetropolitan incidence and mortality rates surpassed those in metropolitan areas. Both rates were higher in nonmetropolitan areas during the third surge until its peak in January 2021,” RUPRI’s report read. “Incidence and mortality rates are currently much higher in nonmetropolitan counties than those in metropolitan counties.”

As of mid-September, metropolitan areas were seeing a seven-day average death rate of 0.41 while rural communities had an average death rate of 0.85.

The average number of cases and deaths in both types of areas began to rise after having dropped and plateaued somewhat in the summer months; however, the numbers in rural areas quickly outpaced the rates seen in metropolitan ones.

In the last three months, RUPRI’s study noted that the seven-day moving average for cases in urban and rural areas were largely the same until August. Currently the seven-day moving average in rural areas is 66.8 confirmed cases per 100,000 while in urban areas it is around 43.3 cases per 100,000.

“There is a national disconnect between perception and reality when it comes to Covid in rural America,” Alan Morgan, head of the National Rural Health Association, told NBC News. “We’ve turned many rural communities into kill boxes. And there’s no movement towards addressing what we’re seeing in many of these communities, either among the public, or among governing officials.”

NBC noted that apart from lower vaccination rates and a higher amount of infections, rural communities tend to have higher rates of poor health in general, with the pandemic compounding these pre-existing conditions.

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