Tracking COVID-19 in Rural America

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Coronavirus has been directly affecting U.S. communities for approximately two months. The majority of the cases are still in densely populated urban communities, but there has certainly been a spread to more rural states and more rural communities within each state. Knowing where outbreaks are and how the disease is spreading relative to your community can help prepare individuals in those communities for minimizing infections. This can be particularly important for many rural communities, especially in Montana and other northern Great Plains states, because of the older populations that tend to live in those communities and the potential for a higher economic impact on those communities.

To better understand how the virus has spread across the United States and has increasingly begun to be seen in rural communities, University of Iowa’s College of Public Health has put together a visual timeline of the spread between early-February and late-March.

Visualization of COVID-19 spread

The data show that much of the initial outbreak begin in metropolitan communities. However, around mid-March, many more rural counties began to see reported cases. It is also important to note that because there are many COVID-19 cases that are mild and testing of for the disease has been slow and (in many rural counties) unavailable for all but the most severe cases, there is likely an underestimation of the spread.

To stay current about where COVID-19 cases have been reported, USA Facts provides an interactive, county-level map of the outbreak. As you can view below, the website allows you to hover over different counties and view information related to the COVID-19 public health pandemic.

Are you seeing the effects of COVID-19 in your community? What are the economic and social implications that you’ve noticed so far?

(Photo by Gerry Dincher is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

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About Author

Dr. Anton Bekkerman is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University, joining the faculty in 2009 after completing his PhD at North Carolina State University. Bekkerman's primary areas of research are grain marketing, basis and price forecast modeling, understanding how grain prices are affected by changes in supply chain infrastructures and quality demands, and analyzing the economic trade-offs of adopting alternative dryland cropping systems in Montana. One of his current projects is an investigation of how new grain loading technologies are affecting prices that Montana farmers receive for their wheat. Bekkerman is also examining the economic impacts that Montana's rapidly expanding dry pulse industry will have on the state's crop industry. Although Bekkerman grew up on the east coast, he has recently made a small step toward production agricultural after acquiring three backyard chickens.

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