Dr. Marynia Kolak is the assistant director for Health Informatics at the Center for Spatial Data Science at the University of Chicago, which recently released a U.S. COVID-19 Atlas, providing county-level data on COVID-19 cases to help locate emerging hotspots for the disease. The results are surprising.
“A lot of hotspots are seen in rural regions throughout the south, especially when you adjust for population size,” Kolak said.
Unfortunately, it’s not just an increase in the number of cases.
“We also see elevated adjusted death rates in places like Northern Mississippi, a lot of Louisiana, and smaller counties in Alabama and South Carolina,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that rural Americans “tend to have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. They also have higher rates of poverty, less access to healthcare, and are less likely to have health insurance.”
“These are vulnerable populations with poor access to insurance who may have to travel far to get to a hospital,” Kolak said. “It’s a bit of a perfect storm with worse access to health care, less health insurance overall, and slow policies to take COVID-19 seriously.”