The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many challenges to preventing the spread of the virus and treating related illnesses. Among those challenges are the working conditions in rural areas, community gatherings, and lack of health care resources. This year, 46 million Americans live in rural areas, which is a high number of people to be at a unique risk to the spread of Covid.
Working Conditions in Rural Areas
For many small towns, the primary employment source is one or two industries, such as a factory or food processing plant. Those industries use manual labor, and people cannot work from home. Factories often do not provide many sick days. Covid can spread faster in these types of situations where workers are in contact with each other daily. To be paid, workers may have to show up when they are sick. These working conditions also may make it difficult for people to social distance.
Government mandates to stay in small groups and social distance can also be challenging in small towns. These areas tend to have close communities that know each other well. In some communities, most of the city might gather for a birthday or funeral, with upwards of 400 people. Such events could spread Covid widely in a short time frame. In rural communities, there are also a limited number of places to gather. The town may share the same space, such as a place of worship, regularly.
Lack of Resources
A lack of health care resources can allow the virus to spread and prevent the treatment of illnesses linked to Covid. Small towns spread out over a large area with few Covid test sites may make it challenging to test everyone. Many rural areas also have fewer doctors and medical specialists. Small hospitals often do not have enough ventilators on hand for a surge in patients. As a result, quick and timely treatment of the illnesses caused by Covid is less likely to happen in rural communities.
A pandemic such as Covid-19 produces a unique set of challenges for rural areas. Understanding these issues is the first step to creating better solutions to stop the spread of Covid.