Myth 13: We are protected because we are rural.
ABC News ran a story on April 4th about rural hot spots of Covid-19 cases and an increased mortality rate in those areas. You can read the article here: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/surprising-covid-19-hot-spots-coronavirus-threatens-rural/story?id=69940146
As it mentions in the article, we might be tempted to think that because we live in a much less dense population, we are at less risk than, say, denizens of a 20 floor apartment building in NYC. But we, by nature, congregate. We routinely leave our well separated homes for coffee (or tea.. for my strange non coffee drinking bud) with friends in the morning at our favorite restaurant. We have fewer options for shopping for groceries, we tend to congregate at church more, the pace of life is slower, with a neighbor being more likely to pull over and chat with a friend out for a stroll as they come into the neighborhood. Our friendly, less anonymous, life tends to encourage close interaction with our neighbors. Thankfully, some of the activities I have mentioned above are not happening right now in our community and we are better for it. But not all are prohibited and we all individually must decide to avoid congregating to protect ourselves.
But there is another, even more sinister, side of rural life that makes Covid-19 even more of a challenge. On the whole, people who live in rural America are older and sicker that people who live in cities. These are precisely the people who tend to do worse if they are infected. So cases of Covid-19 tend to hit harder, cause more pathology and increase the mortality rate in rural areas. Also, rural areas struggle with more limited health care resources. Fewer people have health insurance and thus are more restricted from accessing those limited resources.
As of April 9th, in the US we are approaching half a million cases and 15,000 people have died. We have tested more than 2 million people in the US. Texas only has 10,000 cases and 199 deaths to this point. The White House, today, said that we “are at the top of the hill” and should start to see fewer and fewer new cases across the country soon. IHME sort of agrees with their US peak projected in 2 days, on the 11th. But Texas is well behind the timelines of New York, Seattle and the like. Our state peak is due to occur April 22nd. We are still very much on the up slope. And Erath County will likely peak a week or so after the State does as a whole. That means we are still about 20 days (three weeks!) until the number of new cases starts to decrease her at home. We have 3 weeks to prevent Erath County from joining the list of hot spots that were described in the ABC News article. Those 3 weeks will be critical for limiting the local spread and saving lives.
But the news for Erath County is not all bad. You have elected officials, first responders, businesses, and a medical community who are paying attention. We, as a community, were quick to take action by limiting close personal interaction and to raise awareness – quicker than many rural communities. Our efforts thus far have definitely made a difference. It would not have surprised many of us who are working on the front lines to see over 100 cases locally by now. You have kept that from happening and I applaud your efforts. No doubt we can do better. A drive down Washington today bore witness to three separate congregations of 15-20 people in front of businesses who were not separated by 6 feet. But these cases are increasingly becoming aberrations. For the most part you are listening. You are responding. You are saving lives.
Keep it up.