Lack of broadband adds to rural vulnerability to COVID-19

Alexandria Echo Press reports that COVID-19 was slower to come to rural counties, but it’s catching up at a faster rate…

For two weeks ending April 27, rural counties saw a 125% increase in coronavirus cases (from 51 to 115 cases per 100,000 people) and a 169% increase in deaths (from 1.6 to 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people), according to that study.

During that same time period, metro counties saw a 68% increase in cases (from 195 cases per 100,000 people to 328) and a 113% increase in deaths (from 8.0 deaths per 100,000 people to 17.0).

Lack of broadband is a contributing factor…

Coronavirus is poised to hammer the rural health care system, which Henning-Smith said was stressed long before the coronavirus appeared. Since 2010, 128 rural hospitals have closed, eight of them in 2020 alone, while the virus has set many of them teetering on the edge of collapse, Henning-Smith said.

Rural health care systems also face a major shortage of healthcare workers, she said, while people living in rural areas tend to be older, with more underlying health concerns and disability, and less likely to have health insurance than their urban counterparts. Rural residents also are more likely to have less access to broadband internet, finding it difficult to work from home or order groceries online, and also be unemployed.

“Altogether, this puts rural residents at higher risk of COVID-19,” she said.

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