COVID highlights need for rural broadband

Surging COVID-19 cases in rural America for the fourth week in a row highlights the urgent need for broadband connectivity and telehealth solutions.
BY ANNE BLANKENBILLER
COVID and rural broadband

As fall settles in, the COVID-19 spread in rural America is at a record-breaking pace, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Daily Yonder. With 160 counties added to the red-zone list, the total number of rural Americans who have tested positive for the coronavirus has increased to more than 1 million.

Nearly 70% of the nation’s 1,976 rural (nonmetropolitan) counties are now in the red zone, a term used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to designate localities where the spread of the virus is out of control. Red-zone counties have a rate of at least 100 new infections per 100,000 in population. Twenty-three states have more than half of their rural counties in the red zone.

The rising impact of the pandemic on rural communities exposes an urgent need for broadband connectivity. Broadband connections support telehealth solutions that can help patients – especially those who are elderly or managing acute or long-term health challenges. By staying healthy and receiving needed treatments, these individuals can avoid in-person visits to strained health care facilities. However, the lack of broadband connectivity limits these telehealth options available in rural areas with rising cases.

Rural America recently had 82,188 new infections in one week, a 16% increase and the fourth consecutive week of record-breaking levels of new cases. With those cases, the total number of rural residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus broke 1 million (1,068,949), according to data compiled by the nonprofit USA Facts. The rate of new infections in rural counties now exceeds the urban rate by 63%, according to the Daily Yonder analysis, which covers Oct. 11 through Oct. 17.

 

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