Is Official State Strategy Setting up Rural Iowa for a Coronavirus Surge?

Despite Governor Kim Reynolds reopening businesses in Iowa, the state is currently facing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly in rural areas. While the total number of cases is important, the incidence rate among the population is what matters most to the residents of small towns and rural counties. In some counties, the incidence rate is equal to or higher than that of metro areas. The growth rate of the virus in the 77 counties where social distancing requirements have been relaxed or eliminated is increasing at a faster rate than in the 22 counties where restrictions have remained in place.

Unfortunately, the virus has just started to spread to some rural counties in Iowa, and the rate at which it is spreading is high. The eight counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases are in areas where restrictions are being lifted. In the last two weeks, there were 331 new cases per 100,000 population in the 22 restricted counties, while in the eight counties with the highest growth, where restrictions are being relaxed, there were 110 new cases per 100,000 population. In six of the eight counties with the highest incidence rates, the rate exceeded 50, which is high enough to earn the highest score of 3 on the Governor’s metric.

The virus is spreading for two main reasons. The first is proximity to a county with a high number of cases and substantial commuting between those counties. The second is proximity to a meatpacking plant. Several of these counties have meatpacking plants that have had outbreaks, and the infected workers’ cases have spread to the areas where they live. The reopening of 77 counties and the failure to take adequate proactive measures to stem the pandemic appears to have been guided by a combination of wishful thinking, failure to look ahead, trust in the Trump administration’s approach to the pandemic, allegiance to business interests at the expense of workers, and a self-centered ideology of individual liberty without individual responsibility to the larger community.

The impact of the pandemic in rural areas is not the same as in metropolitan areas. Small towns and rural counties have limited medical resources, and an outbreak could quickly overwhelm their healthcare system. In fact, hospitals in these areas are already facing challenges with capacity and resources. With the virus spreading rapidly in rural areas, the situation is likely to worsen if adequate measures are not taken to control its spread.

Health officials and residents are significantly concerned about the failure to take adequate proactive measures. Policymakers must recognize the unique challenges faced by rural areas and take action to control the spread of the virus. Mandatory masks and social distancing, increased testing, and contact tracing are necessary measures to ensure the virus does not continue to spread rapidly. Failure to take adequate proactive measures could lead to overwhelming the healthcare system, causing significant loss of life, and negatively impacting the state’s economy.

In conclusion, the situation in Iowa is worrying, and urgent measures need to be taken to control the spread of the virus, especially in rural areas. Policymakers need to put aside their political differences and work together to protect the health and well-being of all Iowans. It is essential to recognize the unique challenges faced by small towns and rural counties and take measures to mitigate the risks. With the virus spreading rapidly, time is of the essence, and immediate action is necessary to prevent the situation from worsening.

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