Rural Healthcare, COVID, a System in Peril
Rural healthcare was a problem before the pandemic, but vaccine hesitancy, mandates, and staff shortages are intensifying problems.
Findings were released this week that found COVID-related deaths in rural America were more than twice the rate of urban areas. Healthcare in rural parts of the country have long been a concern and the findings underscore a growing divide among parts of the country.
Tragic as well, the NY Times reported people who died in the last three and a half months were concentrated in the South, a region that has lagged in vaccinations.
Rural healthcare systems were already affected by hospital closures, staff shortages, and other resource constraints prior to the pandemic. This week’s digest looks at how COVID is affecting rural America and the issues affecting their healthcare system.
Vaccine Mandates May Worsen Staff Shortages
Rural Hospitals Disproportionately Affected by COVID
Doctor: Rural hospitals 'disproportionately affected by coronavirus' Cumberland Times-News
Some Rural Areas Have High Vaccination Rates
CHART OF THE WEEK
Rural Americans are dying of COVID-19 at more than 2x the rate of those in metropolitan areas according to data from the Rural Policy Research Institute.
Findings of the Study:
September COVID incidence rates were about 54% higher in rural areas than elsewhere
Since the pandemic began, about 1 in 434 rural Americans have died of COVID, compared to 1 in 513 urban Americans.
Rural mortality rates are now more than double urban rates (and accelerating)
Why this Matters:
According to the CDC, pre-pandemic rural Americans already had 20% higher overall death rates than those who live in urban areas
Since January 2005, 181 rural hospitals have closed
Staffing shortages at rural hospitals could be exacerbated with expanded Federal vaccine requirements
Rural-urban and within-rural differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates The Journal of Rural Health
The Issue: Disparities in COVID-19 vaccination between urban and rural communities can hinder progress toward ending the pandemic.
Rural residents have been less likely to adopt COVID-19 prevention behaviors, such as physical distancing, avoiding dining out, and wearing face masks.19-21 Smaller shares of rural residents report being worried about getting sick, and larger shares say that the severity is exaggerated, getting vaccinated is a personal choice, and believe in at least one myth about the vaccine.
Any opinions expressed herein are those of the author and the author alone.