In this brief, author Kenneth Johnson discusses the likely influence that the age structure and the incidence of pre-existing health conditions have on the risks of those exposed to COVID-19 in rural and urban counties in the United States.

Johnson reports that the rural population is at higher risk from COVID-19 because it is older and has higher rates of pre-existing health conditions. Rural areas currently have lower COVID-19 case and death rates, but these rates are rising faster than in urban areas. Nearly 32 percent of the rural counties at high risk from COVID-19 still have relatively few cases and deaths, but as the pandemic continues to spread these counties are in jeopardy, and the risk to rural populations is growing.

Should the spread of the virus further disrupt the infrastructure and supply chains of rural America, it will have significant implications for the nation at large because rural America provides most of the country’s food and raw materials. The fates of rural and urban America are inextricably intertwined, so responding to the virus must address the needs of both areas.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Summer 8-27-2020


National Issue Brief No. 150


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2020. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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