EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the study was done by the CDC. The study was done by the Rural Policy Research Institute and is now available at the bottom of this story.
QUINCY (WGEM) -- A new study from the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) shows COVID has been killing rural Americans at twice the rate of urban Americans.
According to the study, the earliest surge in the pandemic, in the spring of 2020 largely took place in urban areas.
In the second surge, in the summer of 2020, we saw increases in cases and mortality in both urban and rural areas. However, it was at that time that rural cases and mortality rates surpassed those in urban areas.
Both rates were higher in rural areas during the third surge until its peak in January 2021.
Following that peak, urban and rural rates declined in a similar fashion with cases leveling off in the spring and then
declining until July 2021.
At that time cases started rising sharply with mortality rates following suit in August. Although that surge appears to have peaked in late September, cases and mortality rates remain much higher in rural counties than those in urban counties
A Blessing doctor explained what he thinks is behind these trends.
"If you just look at comorbidities, in other words, the amount of disease other patients have, chronic diseases like blood pressure or diabetes, or high cholesterol and even peoples weights can contribute to this. So if you're in a rural pocket where those tend to be more common then if you get COVID it's going to be more susceptible to serious illness," said Dr. Christopher Solaro from Blessing Health System.
Dr. Solaro also says quick access to healthcare is critical to survival when someone gets seriously ill with COVID.
How fast you can get care really can mean the difference between life and death.
The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that some rural areas have characteristics that put residents at higher risk of death, such as long travel distances to specialty and emergency care or exposures to specific environmental hazards.
The CDC states that rural Americans also tend to have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Rural residents report less leisure-time physical activity than their urban counterparts. They also have higher rates of poverty, less access to healthcare, and are less likely to have health insurance. All of these factors can lead to poor health outcomes and possibly life-threatening situations if COVID is contracted.
The CDC states these challenges highlight the need for additional attention and resources aimed at improving health in rural America. Rural areas could benefit from improved public health programs that support healthier behaviors and neighborhoods, and better access to healthcare services.COVID-Longitudinal-Data