Rural Americans are dying of COVID-19 at more than twice the rate of their urban counterparts — a divide that health experts say is likely to widen as access to medical care shrinks for a population that tends to be older, sicker, heavier, poorer and less vaccinated.
While the initial surge of COVID-19 deaths skipped over much of rural America, where roughly 15% of Americans live, nonmetropolitan mortality rates quickly started to outpace those of metropolitan areas as the virus spread nationwide before vaccinations became available, according to data from the Rural Policy Research Institute.
Since the pandemic began, about 1 in 434 rural Americans have died of COVID, compared with roughly 1 in 513 urban Americans, the institute’s data shows. And though vaccines have reduced overall COVID death rates since the winter peak, rural mortality rates are now more than double urban rates — and accelerating quickly.
In Oklahoma, per capita mortality in rural areas has exceeded that of urban Oklahoma since April 2020, according to the Oklahoma State University Center for Rural Health. Rural Oklahoma constitutes 34% of the state’s population and 39% of the confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma, the center reports.
In rural northeastern Texas, Titus Regional Medical Center CEO Terry Scoggin is grappling with a 39% vaccination rate in his community. Eleven patients died of COVID in the first half of September at his hospital in Mount Pleasant, population 16,000. Typically, three or four non-hospice patients die there in a whole month.
“We don’t see death like that,” Scoggin said. “You usually don’t see your friends and neighbors die.”
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►FIFA offered direct encouragement for footballers to get vaccinated on Sunday, making it the first clear statement of its kind from the world’s football governing body as players were flying to countries for men’s World Cup qualifiers.
►Russia on Sunday reported a record daily death toll from COVID-19, the fifth time in a week that deaths have hit a new high. The national coronavirus task force said 890 deaths were recorded over the past day, exceeding the 887 reported on Friday. The task force also said the number of new infections in the past day was the second-highest of the year at 25,769.
►United Airlines announced an integration with Apple’s Health app that allows customers to quickly confirm they’ve met the vaccination requirements needed for their travel plans.
►New Mexico State University says less than one-third of its students submitted proof of COVID vaccination by this week’s deadline, though it is not clear how many plan to submit to weekly testing. By contrast, about 70% of the university’s employees complied. Failure to receive the vaccine or be tested weekly can lead to suspension.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 701,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 234 million cases and 4.8 million deaths. More than 185 million Americans — 55.9% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we’re reading: Despite federal COVID-19 aid, some cities are facing massive hurdles in bringing workers back after budget cuts. In fact, state and local governments haven’t recovered about 400,000 of the non-education jobs shed since the start of the pandemic. Read more about the issue here.
Andrew Wiggins, whose status for the upcoming NBA season was thrown into question last month, will now be available for all Golden State Warriors games.
Wiggins received his COVID-19 vaccination, coach Steve Kerr told reporters Sunday at the team’s training camp, putting him in compliance with San Francisco’s mandates for large events in the city. Wiggins would not have been eligible to play in Warriors home games in the city had he not been vaccinated. The NBA previously denied Wiggins’ request for a religious exemption from any city mandates.
In August, San Francisco approved requirements for everyone over the age of 12 to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms and large indoor events, including basketball games. The proof of vaccination requirement for staff and employees at venues, which includes players, goes into effect on Oct. 13.
Wiggins, 26, had become one of the faces of vaccine resistance in the NBA. During Warriors media day last week, he reiterated his stance against the vaccine and said he would stick to his beliefs. Wiggins said his back was “definitely against the wall, but I’m just going to keep fighting for what I believe. I’m going to keep fighting for what I believe is right. What’s right to one person isn’t right to the other and vice versa.”
Wiggins stood to lose more than $350,000 for every home game missed, according to the Associated Press, amounting to half of his $31.6 million salary for the 2021-22 season.
– Matt Eppers
The number of Floridians receiving coronavirus shots climbed more slowly in the past week than at any time since late December, an analysis of state data shows.
The state added just 85,026 more residents to Florida’s COVID-19 inoculation count in the past seven days, a Health Department report published Friday says. That’s the smallest increase since Dec. 28, the second week of statewide coronavirus immunization reporting.
In total, 13,621,499 Florida residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose, covering 71% of the eligible population ages 12 and older, state health officials reported. That tally includes 436,543 fully vaccinated people who have gotten additional jabs.
Health officials reported Friday that 11,370,030 Florida residents are fully vaccinated. That covers 59.5% of the eligible population.
Florida’s summer surge of COVID-19 deaths, which happened mostly to the unvaccinated, continues to slow. The state’s death toll climbed 1,719 in the past week, the slowest pace since Aug. 27, before the wave of newly reported fatalities crested.
The state’s death toll stands at 55,299.
Florida health officials have documented more lives lost — 17,429 — than any other state since June 4, when they stopped publishing daily coronavirus statistics because “our state is returning to normal, with vaccines widely available throughout Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said at the time.
– Chris Persaud, Palm Beach Post
Contributing: Associated Press