The coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately hitting rural America, where the population is older, sicker, and at a greater risk of poor outcomes from the infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a face mask to reduce disease transmission, but rural residents are less likely than the general populace to do it."This may be partly due to public health messaging that hasn’t been tailored to rural communities," Nickloas Zaller and George Pro report for Stat. "Retention of health messaging is lower in rural areas than it is in urban or suburban areas, suggesting that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to disseminating crucial health information to the public."
Friday, November 13, 2020
Expert says lax public-health restrictions caused rural coronavirus spike; surge hurts cash-strapped rural hospitals
|New rural infections, Nov. 1-7. Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version with figures on urban vs. rural new infections. |
Lax measures earlier in the year may be partly responsible for the surge in rural coronavirus infections, especially in the Northern Rockies and Upper Midwest, says one expert, Kirk Siegler reports for NPR.
Andrew Pavia, head of infectious diseases at the University of Utah Hospital, said the rural surge in those areas can be traced to state governments that imposed few restrictions and do not enforce bans on large gatherings, Siegler reports. Pavia also blames the re-opening of in-person classes at colleges and schools—along with sports and most extracurricular activities—earlier in the year."Because of the local politics, they're probably not as drastic or as firm measures as we really needed to turn the tide. So I think the situation in two to four weeks is going to be grim," Pavia said.
Many rural hospitals in Upper Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states say they're at or near capacity. "In North Dakota, covid-19 hospitalizations are up 60 percent over this time last month. And it's not just ICU capacity that's stretched," Siegler reports. "This week, the state said it would begin allowing medical staff who test positive for the virus but are asymptomatic to keep treating covid patients."
Many rural hospitals can't afford more staff, Liz Carey reports for The Daily Yonder. One Nebraska hospital administrator told her that local staffing shortages, statewide hospital bed shortages, nationwide nursing shortages, and funding problems are all making the pandemic much worse for rural hospitals.
The pandemic has worsened an existing nationwide nursing shortage. That hits rural hospitals especially hard, since they have a hard time attracting nurses in the first place, Carey reports. Traveling nurses can step in to help, but they're an expensive proposition, earning up to $150 an hour.
New Ron Howard-directed film 'Hillbilly Elegy', based on controversial J.D. Vance memoir, mostly panned by critics
|Glenn Close and Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy|
QAnon won big in the recent election. Read more here.
The latest rural secession threat comes from rural Oregon counties that want to join Idaho. They have their eyes on some in California, too. Read more here.
The tiny community of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, traditionally elects a dog as its mayor. Meet the new one.
Rural registered nurses share stories of caring for their communities. Read more here.
Free social-media platform for farmers releases new features aimed at helping members share advice more easily. Read more here.
When one rural Colorado doctor caught the coronavirus, the repercussions extended far beyond his own health. Read more here.
Thursday, Nov. 19, National Institutes of Health seminar to explore rural health challenges during pandemic
On Nov. 19 the National Institutes of Health will host a virtual seminar from 1 to 5 p.m. ET dedicated to exploring rural health and challenges in the pandemic era.The event is co-sponsored by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and will feature speakers from other federal agencies and academic institutions.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Georgia reporter's unpaid, all-night coverage of vote tallying, backed by donors, shows the importance of local journalism
|Robin Kemp at her home office in Forest Park, Ga. (Washington Post photo by Kevin Liles)|
The same day Georgia's Clayton News laid off reporter Robin Kemp in April, the suburban Atlanta journalist started her own news website, The Clayton Crescent. That dedication to covering local news catapulted her into the international spotlight during the election and underscored the importance of local journalism, Reis Thebault reports for The Washington Post.
Kemp, 56, "was the only journalist to watch all 21 hours of Clayton County’s marathon tabulation of absentee votes, from about 9 a.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday," Thebault reports. "During that span, a record number of absentee ballots helped Biden close the statewide gap with Trump. And it was votes from Clayton County — the heart of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis’s old district — that pushed Biden into the lead" and helped him flip Georgia blue for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Through Twitter and Facebook Live, Kemp kept followers updated on ballot-counting and on Republican observers. People began to pay attention. "When she set out that morning, Kemp had just a couple hundred Twitter followers and less than $2,000 in a GoFundMe she started in April. By the next day, she was at well over 10,000 followers and dollars," Thebault reports.
Starting Tuesday, the European Union will impose tariffs on $3.99 billion in U.S. good annually, including agricultural goods. The move, sanctioned last month by the World Trade Organization, is part of a long-running dispute over airplane subsidies for Boeing and Airbus jets, Laurence Norman and Daniel Michaels report for The Wall Street Journal."On Monday evening, the EU said the U.S. products to be targeted with the 25% duty would include tobacco, nuts and seeds, spirits, sauces, soups and syrups, self-propelled shovel loaders, tractors and proteins," Norman and Michaels report.
Educational attainment rates for racial and ethnic minorities have improved over the past two decades, but large gaps persist for rural nonwhites. Rural Hispanics, Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives were only half as likely as their white counterparts to have a bachelor's degree or higher in 2018, the most recent year of data available. That's according to a newly published study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
Among all rural residents 25 and older, "the percentage who had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher rose from 15% in 2000 to 20% in 2018. Conversely, the share of that population without a high school degree or equivalent dropped from 24% in 2000 to 13% in 2018," Tracey Farrigan reports. "Among racial and ethnic groups in rural America, Hispanics continued to have the highest percentage (35 percent) without a high school degree, despite significant gains in high school and higher educational attainment rates between 2000 and 2018.
Meanwhile, African Americans "had the largest decrease (20 percentage points) of rural individuals without a high school degree," Farrigan writes. "This change eliminated the gap between the shares of Blacks/African Americans and Whites who had graduated from high school but had not completed a bachelor’s degree. Nevertheless, the share of Blacks without a high school degree remained nearly double that of whites in 2018."
Rural hospitals say they can't afford ultra-cold freezers needed to store Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine
Pfizer Inc. has a promising coronavirus vaccine, but most rural hospitals can't afford the ultra-cold freezers to store it, so rural residents may have a harder time getting it, Olivia Goldhill reports for Stat. That means some of them may have to wait for other vaccines that don't need special handling.Pfizer's vaccine has to be stored at -94 F., -70 C. "Typical freezers don’t get that cold, making distribution of this vaccine a logistical nightmare," Goldhill reports. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised state health departments against purchasing ultra-cold freezers — which cost $10,000 to $15,000 each — saying other vaccines with less demanding storage requirements will be available soon. Hospitals with money to spare are flouting this guidance. Four major health care systems, from North Carolina to Ohio, North Dakota, and California, told Stat they had bought additional ultra-cold freezers, while Jefferson Health in Philadelphia said it has leased five units."
"This purchase is out of reach for poorer hospitals, especially those in rural areas that can barely manage daily expenses," Goldhill writes, noting that nearly half of rural hospitals in the U.S. lost money in April, and the pandemic has continued to hurt their bottom lines, according to Alan Morgan, chief executive of the National Rural Health Association. But rural people need the shots the most, he said.
“Hundreds of rural, small towns all across the U.S. have a higher percentage of elderly, low-income [residents], a higher percentage of the community with multiple chronic health issues,” Morgan told Goldhill. “In this financial environment, you can imagine that there is simply no consideration of rural hospitals purchasing storage equipment for this ultra-cold distribution.”
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
New rural coronavirus infections hit new high for seventh straight week; 80% of rural counties now federal 'red zones'
|Coronavirus zones, Nov. 1-7. Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here to view the interactive version.|
From Nov. 1 through 7, new coronavirus infections in rural counties grew 30 percent, setting a record for the seventh week in a row. "There were 144,043 new infections in rural counties last week, up from about 110,000 the week before," Tim Murphy and Tim Marema report for The Daily Yonder.
Also last week, 97 more rural counties were added to the red-zone list to bring the total to 1,599. That's four-fifths of all non-metropolitan counties, the Yonder notes. Red zones are defined by the White House Coronavirus Task Force as those with at least 1 new infection per 1,000 people in a week."The current surge originated in rural areas two months ago and more recently has spread into metropolitan counties," Murphy and Marema report. "Previously, metropolitan counties had their worst new infection rates in July. But those counties surpassed those summer peaks for the past two weeks."
President Trump has made several false claims about a coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer Inc., Hope Yen, Lauran Neergaard and Linda A. Johnson report for The Associated Press. Here's a summary:
Trump falsely tried to take full credit for Pfizer's announcement that its vaccine might be 90 percent effective. In a tweet Tuesday, Trump quoted Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo to imply he should get credit for the vaccine. However, his suggestion "that he stood alone in saying a covid-19 vaccine was possible by year’s end is incorrect," AP reports. "Actually, top health experts said they considered that possible, though far from certain, and were more skeptical of Trump’s claim that a coronavirus vaccine would become available before the Nov. 3 election. The vaccine isn’t expected to become widely available to the general public before 2021."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious-diseases expert and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had previously said he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vaccine would be ready by late 2020 or early 2021. On Monday, he lauded Pfizer's news, but cautioned that it didn't mean an immediate cure-all for the coronavirus, AP notes.
Pfizer says it will apply to the Food and Drug Administration for "emergency use authorization" to allow limited distribution later this month, then seek approval for wider use, and neither request is guaranteed to be granted, AP reports. Fauci told CNN that there are still questions about the vaccine's effectiveness and durability; it requires two doses, 21 days apart, and must be kept at 94 below zero.
In several tweets, Trump also claimed that Pfizer and the FDA withheld vaccine information until after the election, implying that it was done to harm him politically. That's false, the AP reports: "The company itself learned of the interim results on Sunday, and the FDA was not involved in Pfizer’s decision to announce its early results."All vaccine studies such as the one Pfizer is conducting are overseen by independent data and safety monitoring boards. DSMBs "include scientists and statisticians who have no ties to the vaccine makers," AP reports. "Before a study is complete, only the DSMB has the power to unlock the code of who got a real vaccine and who got a placebo, and to recommend if the shots are working well enough to stop testing early. Those boards take sneak peeks at predetermined times agreed to by the manufacturer and the FDA. It provided the first interim analysis for Pfizer on Sunday." Several Pfizer officials, including CEO Albert Bourla, have asserted that the announcement's timing had nothing to do with the election.
|Trend line shows rural-urban divide: Democratic margin had a strong tendency to increase with population|
The Economist also observes, "Biden will win the national popular vote by about five percentage points. But his margin in the 'tipping-point' state that ultimately decided the election, Wisconsin, will be less than one point. That four-point advantage for the Republicans is the biggest in at least four decades. So long as Democrats continue to be the party of the cities, and Republicans the party of small-town and rural America, those biases will persist."
Applications are now open for U.S. Department of Agriculture summer internships through the federal Pathways Program. The program offers a wide range of paid internships for students in high school through the graduate level with on-the-job experience, mentorship, and training tailored to each student's interests and needs.
The internships span a wide range of occupations, including veterinary science, engineering, natural resources management, finance and more. Positions are open in almost every state, and some are virtual.
The deadline for summer 2021 internship applications is Nov. 16. Click here for more information.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Veterans Day, which has deep ties to rural areas, is a good time to make sure veterans feel connected to community
Wednesday is Veterans Day. It originally was a celebration of World War I's Nov. 11, 1918, armistice, and has long and closely held ties with rural Americans.
"According to the Defense Department, rural recruits — especially those with farm backgrounds — are likely to become good soldiers because these recruits — both males and females — tend to tolerate adversity well, possess many practical skills, are comfortable with the rigors of a demanding lifestyle, respond readily to training, and willingly choose military careers for at least part of lives," Mike Rosmann writes for the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan. "Persons with urban backgrounds are less likely to pursue military lifestyles, even though many are highly qualified."
Moreover, "The Veterans Administration reported that 24 percent of all veterans choose to live their subsequent years in rural communities," Rosmann writes. And "11 percent of all U.S. farmers have served — or are serving — in the military even though only 2 percent of Americans are engaged in agriculture as their chosen way of life."
But veterans have relatively high rates of suicide and mental-health disorders, Military.com reports: "As of 2017, an average of 20 veterans and service members die by suicide every day. This represents a 7% increase in the rate of suicide among veterans in just over a decade. Some reports indicate that suicides among service members have increased as much as 20% this year, when compared to previous years."
So, Military.com encourages you, on this Veterans Day, to reach out to the veterans around you and make sure they know they're part of your community.
Colorado rural and urban hospitals collaborate to combat pandemic overcrowding; transfers can go both ways
Coronavirus rates are rising not just in rural areas across the nation, but in many urban areas too, filling up hospitals. That has meant trouble for critical rural patients, who would usually be transferred to larger, more well-equipped urban hospitals. But what about transferring less critical patients to rural areas to make room for them?
The Colorado Hospital Association has a new system to facilitate that, KCNC-TV in Denver reports. The system could be a model for other states. Its Combined Hospital Transfer Center "will be a centralized resource where hospitals can coordinate patient care, should one start nearing capacity or reach capacity," Karen Morfitt reports. "It will help rural areas in need of more critical care space and larger centers looking to release patients."
Less-critical urban patients can be moved to less-specialized rural hospitals so critical rural patients can be moved to the urban hospitals if necessary, CHA spokesperson Cara Welch explained: "We are all in this business for the same reason: We want to take care of patients and we have to work together to be able to do it. When you get to this level of volume, no one should be working on an island."
Rural county's entire health department staff resigns over lack of support from county government during pandemic
|Pondera County, Montana|
Nicki Sullivan, who was the department's director, wrote in her resignation letter that the decision was the hardest of her life, and that helping families brings her joy. But "Sullivan said she was most concerned with the commissioners’ lack of support for her and her department," Carey reports. "In her letter, she cited the lack of help doing contact tracing and being able to hire people to fill positions that would help with contact tracing.
The decision wasn't out of the blue: Sullivan sent the commissioners a letter Oct. 29 saying they needed to address issues that made her job impossible, and if they did, she would "consider staying." Otherwise, she implied that she would leave, and said it would be difficult for the next director to do a good job unless the commissioners address the problems, Carey reports.
Between Oct. 20 and Nov. 2, the other three employees resigned in solidarity, also effective Nov. 27, Carey reports.
National Rural Health Day, Nov. 19, is a chance to spotlight inequalities and local health issues in rural areas
The Payson Roundup in central Arizona did a good job of using the observance to focus attention on rural health. For resources and statistics that can help with coverage, visit the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health website or the National Rural Health Day website.
HRSA will host a variety of events next week to call attention to rural health issues. All are open to the public, though registration is required for some. Click here for a list of webinars, recordings, and virtual workshops on topics such as HIV, coronavirus testing at rural health clinics, death-rate disparities in rural areas, telehealth, Native American health, a virtual job fair, and more.
Monday, November 09, 2020
Though rural Republican support increased in many areas, small blue shifts added up to help Biden win
Republican support increased in many areas in the Nov. 2020 election, but small shifts helped Joe Biden take the presidency from Donald Trump.
Stacey Abrams, who lost the race for Georgia governor in 2018, arguably helped swing Georgia to Biden, Ryan Lizza reports for Politico. She created a non-profit dedicated to increasing voter turnout in the state and though most of her efforts netted urban and suburban voters, rural Black voters in the southeastern part of the state may have been listening.
Trump won rural voters 2 to 1 in Georgia, but Biden performed slightly better in rural areas than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. That helped him take the state, Tim Marema, Tim Murphy, and Bill Bishop report for The Daily Yonder.
"In the three 'Northern battlegrounds' that Biden flipped — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — Trump boosted rural turnout, while Biden amped up his performance in the cities. But in many of those areas, each side managed to limit the other’s margins, canceling out any gains," Griff Witte reports for The Washington Post.
In Iowa, "the alignment of Democratic voters to Iowa’s urban centers and Republican voters to the state’s rural areas continued to sharpen in the 2020 election," Erin Murphy reports for the Sioux City Journal. "Iowa’s urban-rural divide has been in the works for a decade now, and it’s no longer a growing trend: It’s the new normal. Democrats own the five counties with the largest populations; Republicans own all but one of the rest."
In North Carolina, which Trump will win, the rural-urban political divide also persisted, Andrew Carter reports for the Raleigh News & Observer. Part of the divide falls along lines of poverty and education, but part of it is less easily quantifiable and more about conflicting worldviews.
Post-election fact check: President Trump and his allies make bogus claims of interference and fraud
Democrat Joe Biden has been elected, but President Trump has not conceded, and has continued to spread false claims of election interference and fraud, FactCheck.org reports. Here's some fact-checking on that and more.
In a Thursday appearance at the White House, Trump made baseless allegations of illegal voting in several swing states, D'Angelo Gore and Eugene Kiely report for FactCheck.org. He also falsely claimed that he won certain states "despite historic election interference from big media, big money, and big tech. . . . The U.S. intelligence community has publicly identified three actors that it warned were trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential election: Russia, China and Iran — not 'big media, big money and big tech,' as Trump falsely alleged," Gore and Kiely report.
Analysts predict what's likely and possible for farming, mining and other industries under the Biden administration
With President-Elect Joe Biden set to take office in January, Bloomberg journalists and analysts have put together some predictions on how the new administration will affect U.S. sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, retail, health care, and more. Here are some with rural resonance:"Any Biden rollback of tariffs on Chinese goods could clear the way for more shipments of U.S. farm products to Asia," Kevin Miller and Melinda Grenier report. "But there’s concern a transition away from oil under Biden could erode demand for corn- and soy-based biofuels, which are mixed in with petroleum-based motor fuels. Some more left-leaning Democrats also may try to take a harder line against big agriculture companies. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have said the U.S. response to coronavirus outbreaks at meat plants this year was 'feckless'."
Biden aims to expand coverage and subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, which will help more people afford it, and says he will roll back some Trump administration changes that weakened it.
Nestle Purina PetCare is launching a new line of cat food and dog food made with larvae of black soldier flies, and plans to offer other lines soon based on Asian carp. It's all part of a push to find protein from cheaper, more sustainable sources.
The Beyond Nature's Protein line will hit stores in Switzerland this month, and the company plans to expand to other European markets, Jaclyn Diaz reports for NPR. Purina spokesperson Lorie Westhoff said the company will offer U.S. customers an insect-based dry dog food in January, sold online only, along with several other formulas using protein alternatives such as Asian carp, an invasive species.Purina "is embracing what the company views as a growing trend among consumers seeking protein alternatives for their cats and dogs, company representatives told NPR," Diaz reports. "A desire to be more environmentally conscious drives the consumer change, as does a perceived health benefit from a diet that substitutes meat."