Since the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States, it has ravaged mainly urban communities. The greater New York City area alone accounts for approximately a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the country. Boston, Detroit, and New Orleans, among other cities, have been hammered as well. But until very recently, rural America was mostly spared. Ordered to stay at home, often without paychecks, rural Americans watched a coronavirus crisis unfurl in the news that seemed completely divorced from their own reality. Some joined “open up” protests, calling on state governments to lift stay-at-home orders and business restrictions. And with their communities still relatively undisturbed, it is little wonder that so many rural dwellers remain skeptical of the virus’s potential to upend their lives.
But the truth is that the pandemic in rural America is only just getting started. Testing has been limited or nonexistent in many sparsely populated