Covid-19 Cases Surpass 2.2 Million in Rural America

OVID 19 reported cases and deaths continue to grow at an accelerated pace. There are now more than 2.2 million rural cases, and there were nearly 900,000 new reported COVID-19 cases in rural areas over the last 30 days.   

UPDATE: COVID-19 in Rural America – DECEMBER 3, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis affecting nearly every community – including rural America. While there are still many uncertainties, the health crisis changes daily and the pandemic’s impact on rural communities continues to grow and evolve. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) presents summary findings of COVID-19 in rural America as of early December.

Covid-19 Cases Outside Metropolitan Areas - 12-3-2020To access an interactive version of this map, click on the graphic.


Total Reported COVID-19 Cases February 20- December 3, 2020

The first reported case of COVID-19 outside of metropolitan areas came on February 20, 2020. As of December 3, 2020, there were more than 2.2 million reported cases of COVID-19 and approximately 38,000 associated deaths in communities outside of metropolitan areas. Between November 3 and December 3, communities outside of metropolitan areas reported 859,000 new cases of COVID-19 – a 63 percent increase over the month period. All but two U.S. counties outside of metropolitan areas now have reported COVID-19 cases, and 93 percent of outside metro counties have also reported associated deaths related to the virus.


Newly Reported COVID-19 Cases February 20 – DECEMBER 3, 2020

Nationally, the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to increase and reported rural cases also continue to grow to their highest levels since the pandemic began. Between November 20 and December 3, rural areas reported an average of 29,552 cases per day. Similarly, rural reported COVID related deaths were up to an average of 434 per day compared to 331 deaths per day over the previous two-week period.



Rural Share of COVID-19 Reported Cases

Initial impacts of COVID-19 were greatest in urban and suburban communities and these areas still have the largest share of cases and deaths. Since February 20, 2020, approximately 16 percent of the total reported COVID-19 cases were identified in rural communities. But the rural share of COVID-19 cases continues to be larger than the outside metro proportion of the population. On December 3, 2020, 17 percent of new cases and 25 percent of new deaths were reported outside of metropolitan areas.




Reported Rural COVID-19 Rates per 100,000

Only two U.S. counties have not reported COVID-19 cases, but the virus’ impacts vary widely across the nation’s rural geography. Rural America simultaneously has the highest and lowest rates of reported COVID-19 cases. There have been several instances of extremely high per-capita infection rates in rural areas – notably on some Native American lands and communities with meat packing and correctional facilities.  In the past weeks, the rural case and death rates increased most dramatically in the plains and upper Midwest, Southeastern, and Western states.

Covid-19 Reported Cases Per 100,000 Outside Metropolitan Areas - 12-3-2020To access an interactive version of this map, click on the graphic.


The information in this brief derives from Housing Assistance Council tabulations of data from The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey. 

In these analyses, the terms “rural” and Outside Metropolitan Areas are synonymous and refer to counties and counts outside of OMB designated Metropolitan Areas. 

The Housing Assistance Council is a national nonprofit organization that helps build homes and communities across rural America. 

Emergency Rental Relief is Overdue

On September 16, 2020 a statement from seven leading affordable housing organizations called for immediate rental assistance, paired with financial support for affordable housing providers, to supplement the protection provided by the CDC’s recent eviction moratorium. The statement was issued by the Housing Assistance Council along with Enterprise Community Partners, the Housing Partnership NetworkLeadingAge, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Housing Trust and Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future.

For six months, Americans have sheltered, worked, and studied at home to stay safe and healthy. Tens of millions of our neighbors, however, have also lost jobs and wages due to COVID-19 and risk losing the safety of their homes, even with a recent eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We urge Congress and the Administration to provide rental assistance, paired with financial support for affordable housing providers, to avoid widespread homelessness and the loss of affordable homes. Earlier this month, after negotiations between Congress and the White House failed, the CDC took the unprecedented step of issuing an order banning evictions for nonpayment of rent for some renters through December 31, 2020. The CDC’s eviction moratorium is a public health measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by enabling renters to practice social distancing and comply with stay-at-home orders.

While the CDC’s action provides important temporary protections for certain renters across the country, it represents only a partial step toward housing stability. In addition to barring evictions, any effective housing stability policy must also include rental assistance for renters and owners. Help is needed for renters because accumulating arrearages of back rent, penalties, and fees only sets them up for widespread failure on January 1, 2021. Help is needed for owners because their lenders, utility providers, and property services providers still fully expect payments to continue regardless of any eviction moratorium.

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Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America

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Rual Voices: Hope After Disaster: Rual Resilience and Recovery

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Picking Up the Pieces: HAC’s Natural Disaster Guide

Picking Up the Pieces - CoverWhen a disaster strikes a rural area, one of the most serious problems may be a lack of information about resources and assistance available for recovery efforts. HAC’s guide, Picking Up the Pieces: Restoring Rural Housing and Communities After a Disaster, is intended to help survivors and local organizations identify resources to rebuild their homes and communities. This report emphasizes housing assistance.

Fed Chair talks strong economy and rural poverty at HAC Conference

Federal Reserve Board of Governors chairman Jerome Powell addressed the HAC Rural Housing Conference on December 6, 2018. Chairman Powell discussed the strength of the economy while acknowledging that not everyone has enjoyed the benefits of the strong economy equally.


“While the economy is strong overall, we recognize that some communities have yet to feel the full benefits of the ongoing expansion,” Powell said.

During his speech, Chairman Powell praised the work of the community development functions in each of the 12 Federal Reserve banks and what their work means for local communities. He stressed the importance of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and praised HAC’s research on the subject as beneficial to the Fed’s plans around potential CRA reform.

He closed his remarks by acknowledging the work of community development organizations like HAC’s partners in improving rural communities across the country. He stressed that their work is critical to expand the benefits of the strong economy into more rural areas.

Press Coverage:

Thank You for Your Generous Donation

Your donation will support HAC’s work Building Rural Communities all around the United States.
While you are here, you should take a look at our What We Do section to learn a little bit more about our work in rural communities. You should also make sure that are subscribed to receive the HAC News and other information products like our Rural Voices magazine. Or you can visit our events page for rural housing training opportunities.
Thank you again for your generous donation to HAC and rural America.

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