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Just because COVID-19 hit urban areas first doesn't mean it won't hit rural areas, too

Posted: Tue, May 5, 2020 2:02 PM

(Analysis by's Paul Scott)

The places the COVID-19 virus has hit the hardest so far are cruise ships, naval carriers, nursing homes, meatpacking plants, prisons and factories.  These all have one characteristic in common—they're confined places where a lot of people gather.

The states the COVID-19 virus has hit the hardest so far are New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois—places where a lot of people gather in a small space.

In Iowa, the counties the COVID-19 virus has hit the hardest so far are Polk, Black Hawk, Linn and Johnson—places where a lot of people gather.  In fact, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has sorted Iowa's 99 counties into two categories—22 counties with a lot of COVID-19 cases and 77 counties where cases have been fewer.

But COVID-19 is now spreading to smaller counties from the bigger counties—just like it spread from New York and Illinois to Iowa and other smaller states.  When Reynolds first announced she was relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in 77 counties, she took pains to announce that 95 percent of that day's COVID-19 cases were from the 22 counties where restrictions had not been relaxed.  However, that figure has now dropped to 80 percent of the new cases being in the 22 counties.  To put it more sharply, the number of new cases in the 77 counties has quadrupled in less than two weeks—from 5 percent to 20 percent of the new cases daily.

Asked about those statistics at a morning news conference Tuesday, Reynolds replied that "we're looking at trends, not just a snapshot in time."  She added, "we've moved into the recovery phase," and, questioned further by the reporter, added, "we might not have to do anything different."

Unfortunately, COVID-19's spread doesn't pay any attention to what's said at news conferences.  Even though we live in one of Iowa's 77 rural counties, I wouldn't be counting on that fact alone to protect us against the spread of COVID-19.  Yes, it's difficult to live by the rules of social distancing, but not doing so risks increasing our exposure at a time when the coronavirus appears to be reaching rural Iowa.