The COVID-19 outbreak spreading through rural America is taking a toll on communities and their thinly resourced clinics. Over 70% of non-metro counties are now considered in the “red zone” for viral spread, suggesting contagion is out of control.

Six months ago, many towns in these areas urged people to stay home to stay safe. When the virus didn’t arrive beyond a few pockets such as meatpacking plants and prisons, resentment and anger over the economic toll began to boil over.

That backlash has left communities more vulnerable to the virus's spread, explain Drs. Lauren Hughes and Roberto Silva, who specialize in rural health care.

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Stacy Morford

General Assignments Editor

Business restrictions early in the pandemic, when rural towns had few cases, triggered a backlash that haunts them now. Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

In rural America, resentment over COVID-19 shutdowns is colliding with rising case numbers

Lauren Hughes, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Roberto Silva, University of Colorado Denver

Coronavirus cases have risen sharply across the Mountain West, Midwest and plains. Over 70% of nonmetropolitan counties are now "red zones," suggesting viral spread is out of control.

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