In Rural America, Resentment Over COVID-19 Shutdowns Is Colliding With Rising Case Numbers

In rural America, resentment over COVID-19 shutdowns is colliding with rising case numbers.

Business restrictions early in the pandemic, when rural towns had few cases, triggered a backlash that haunts them now. Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

As COVID-19 spreads through rural America, new infection numbers are rising to peaks not seen during this pandemic and pushing hospitals to their limits. Many towns are experiencing their first major outbreaks, but that doesn’t mean rural communities had previously been spared the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

Infection rates in rural and frontier communities ebbed and flowed during the first seven months, often showing up in pockets linked to meat packing plants, nursing homes or prisons.

Even if they had no cases, many rural areas were under statewide public health orders that left businesses closed and events canceled. And that has become part of the problem today. The early compassionate and cohesive community responses to COVID-19 quickly gave way to growing anger and compliance fatigue, especially when some isolated towns didn’t see their first positive cases until summer.

That resentment toward public health recommendations, including mask-wearing, is now on a crash course with rising case numbers in the Mountain West, Midwest and Great Plains. For the fifth week in a row, rural counties witnessed a sharp increase in cases, to the point where over 70% of the nation’s nonmetropolitan counties had earned a “red zone” designation, suggesting local viral spread was out of control. The reality, though, is COVID-19 has never been “under control” in the U.S.

As professors of family medicine with experience in rural health policy and medical practice, we have been studying the barriers rural communities are facing during the pandemic and how they can solve COVID-19-related challenges.

Understanding the drivers of increasing COVID-19 cases in rural places is critical to both curtailing the current surge and limiting flareups in the future.

1 2 3 4
View single page >> |

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience. Users' ratings are only visible to themselves.

Comments

Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.