The coronavirus is spreading from pandemic cities to rural communities, which make up a large proportion of older, at-risk residents, which puts pressure on local health care systems and many governors to easily reopen financial limits and reopen for business.
A Wall Street Journal analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that in the two weeks between April 20 and May 4, newly confirmed Covid-19 cases in non-metropolitan areas outperformed those in metro areas by 30%.
The virus has spread to nonmetropolitan areas, where resources for testing and medical care are in short supply, creating new dilemmas for state officials who decide when and how much to relax rules at home.
An analysis of the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire shows that rural areas often have higher rates of elderly residents who experience high mortality rates when exposed to coronavirus.
Older people are more likely to experience a more serious case of the virus, which requires intensive care and ventilator use, says Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire. Combined with other factors, such as a lack of access to more advanced medical care and a higher prevalence of underlying conditions, the virus can cause damage if it spreads in rural counties.
“If the disease spreads in these places, age will be counterproductive,” Mr Johnson said. “Pile on other factors, which will only make it worse.”
Mr. Johnson used age-specific mortality estimates from new research on the Kovid-19 pandemic in China. The results were applied to each county using age estimates from the entire U.S. population age structure and the Census Bureau. His mortality estimates are based solely on age and do not include other risk factors such as pre-existing conditions or access to health care.
Local health systems in rural areas are more vulnerable to stress than metropolitan areas. According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are about 10 times more intensive care beds in metro areas than in rural areas not adjacent to the metro area.
Nonmetropolitan areas also have older and sicker populations. More than 26% of those living in these areas are 65 or older, compared to 21% in metro areas.
Of the 2,200 counties reporting new coronavirus cases for the week ending May 10, 80% supported President Trump in the 2016 election. The epidemic first occurred in urban areas, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. The virus has increased in many places, including New York City, and in the past week, new cases have dropped 12% in Clinton counties.