America with more than 1.3 million reported cases and 84,000 deaths is still worried because of its frailing system of health. Most experts believe the actual number to be much higher than the reported numbers. The condition is expected to be far worse in rural areas as they lack even basic health facilities. All they know is what is brought by the news and they don’t know of any of their possible future cases.
“The epicenter of this outbreak really has shifted into the smaller rural areas,” said Angela Hewlett, associate professor in infectious disease at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in a recent Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing. The magnitude of the problem can’t be calculated by now. But what is clear is the need to reflect the decision government is considering i.e. easing lockdown restrictions.
Some experts assumed that the rural areas are safe from the COVID-19 but new results are not supporting this argument. Another problem lies in a large number of people of rural areas working in large scale industries where it is difficult to maintain social distancing and thus, they are at higher risks. “Part of the reason that we’re seeing such dramatic increases in rural communities is because the virus is running rampant through workplaces like factories and farms”, says Hewlett.
“These are not any places where typically people can work from home,” she notes. Instead, “there are often lots of people working in very close contact in these essential jobs — which really is a setup for perpetuating a disease like this.” Collectively, this will make easing the lockdown restrictions more challenging.
Experts are noticing a number of small spikes collectively forming outbreaks as Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the government that as a result of quickly reopening, “a number of spikes may be faced, forming an outbreak”. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said, “I think we’ve oversimplified this idea of peaks. We’re not seeing one epidemic nationwide, or even statewide — we’re seeing different outbreaks, thousands of them playing out in different parts of the country.”
At least 17% of the population of the US lives in rural areas and more than 30% are living in relatively large or metropolitan areas. The top 10 regions with increasing number of COVID-19 cases are mostly metropolitan areas located in rural states. Although a very small number of cases is reported for rural areas, the exact results can only be calculated on the basis of aggregate for a larger population.
“Both counties and states fail to reflect how and where people get care,” explains Elliott Fisher, a professor of health policy and medicine at the Dartmouth Institute. The lack of testing facilities doesn’t mean the virus doesn’t exist there. Some states reported equal number of percentages of infected people as that of Chicago and even more than Washington too.
According to a research update published by the Chartis Group titled ‘The Rural Health Safety Net Under Pressure: Understanding the Potential Impact of COVID-19’, 63% of hospitals lack the facility of ICU beds. Hospitals are also lacking cash on hand as the number of primary visits by the people has reduced too much amid the pandemic. This further reduces their ability to be ready to combat the COVID-19 in respective areas.
Sources suggest that the areas with less dense population are expected to be having lesser number of infected people. A number of states have their own vital importance as for providing products to other states and counties. As Alaska is a commercial fishing town with only 2,300 population with only 16 beds available, the spread of the virus can not be predicted. “Thousands of fishermen travel from 48 states to work in the fishery,” says Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
Minnehaha County, South Dakota, has a more than 1,000 cases registered for the virus. However, the government has not imposed any stay-at-home orders. A resident of Missouri reported that workers even can’t cover their mouths to cough.
A notable increase is noted in the number of cases in western Nebraska. The meatpacking industries in Nebraska are still working.
The town of Albany, Georgia, has reported the largest number of cases. A number of counties in the state lack hospitals and have no practicing doctors.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have also been reporting an increase in number of cases since April. Iowa has reported the highest number of cases i.e. 12,000.
To meet the requirements of the hospitals in the rural areas, the government has issued a $10 billion emergency relief fund. This has raised the hopes that the health facilities may improve enough until social distancing is enforced and specified guidelines are propagated to prevent the spread.
US is currently having the largest number of COVID-19 cases across the world.