A report from the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee shows that small towns and rural communities face disproportional challenges when it comes to COVID-19, putting them at high risk.
In a report published by Committee chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, rural health systems are already strained and under-resourced. Since 2010, more than 128 rural hospitals have closed, including eight in 2020.
“As COVID-19 spreads across the country, rural communities are being hit hard due to the unique challenges they face. We need to do everything we can to support rural families, farmers and businesses and help them address the devastating impacts of the virus. We need our rural communities to survive and thrive,” said Sen. Stabenow.
The lack of broadband in rural areas also puts rural Americans at high risk. According to the committee vice chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), telehealth services are a benefit, but if internet isn’t available, it can’t be utilized.
While initial hot spots of COVID-19 have been centered in urban communities, infections are expanding into rural areas. Public health officials fear severe testing shortages throughout rural communities are allowing the virus to spread unnoticed. This is particularly notable in meatpacking plants, where outbreaks have occurred among essential food supply chain employees.
Families in rural communities face disparities that put them at high risk and increase the challenges of addressing the pandemic, including: under-resourced health care systems, high rates of chronic health conditions, lack of access to reliable high-speed internet, vulnerable economic conditions, and greater food insecurity.