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Daily Yonder: Rural Death Rate Climbs 20%, But Omicron Surge May Be Passing

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In the latest rural COVID-19 update from The Daily Yonder, the rural death rate from COVID has surged an extra 20%, even though the new infection rate has fallen off.

As of Jan. 29, the rural death rate is 17% higher than the metropolitan rate, with 150,440 rural Americans dead of COVID over the past two years.

From the update: “Rural counties reported 640,000 new infections last week, down about 14,000 from last week’s record-breaking tally. The 2% decline in new cases was the first weekly decrease in rural infections since Christmas.

New cases in metropolitan counties declined for the second week in a row, dropping about 16% to about 3,335,000.

Even though the infection is dropping nationally, the number of new cases remains extremely high compared to previous surges. In fact, the high rates make this week’s map a bit monotoned. Counties with more than 500 new cases per 100,000 residents are shown in black (rural) and gray (metropolitan). This constitutes all but a handful of counties nationally.”

According to the Yonder, Louisiana currently holds the top spot for most rural infections at 2,600 per 100,000, with Maine having the lowest at 432 per 100,000.

To read the rest of the update and see the data, click here.

SOURCE: The Daily Yonder

North Carolina: UNC Project Highlights Rural Childcare Burden

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In a story from The Daily Yonder, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has undertaken a significant research project in rural areas of the state. Studying why people were leaving two rural counties, the data showed one big reason: a lack of affordable childcare.

From the story: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 51% of the U.S. population lived in a childcare desert, defined as areas where the demand far outstrips the supply of available childcare slots; existing childcare facilities (especially in-home operations) are barely sustainable financially; and, staff turnover is high because childcare workers do not earn a living wage. The research underscores wider challenges in rural childcare provision, including: fewer providers; lower numbers of staff and children to sustain operations in remote locations; inadequate transportation systems; and, difficulties recruiting and retaining staff, particularly for senior roles.  

Covid-19 has cast new light on and exacerbated the nation’s childcare crisis. The mandatory shutdown of the U.S. economy idled many workers with young children, eliminating in the process their need for childcare services. This in turn forced some childcare facilities to furlough workers and close; and others to lay-off workers and close permanently. In our rural counties, low vaccination rates combined with the closures has eliminated more than 90% of the available childcare providers.”

From the data gathered, the team at UNC-CH has some suggestions in regards to rural and urban childcare issues:

“Advocate for more and better continuing education programs for childcare workers. Strengthening their educational background and training will enable them to move away from providing basic childcare to rendering culturally- and age-appropriate child development services—an important step given the increasing diversity of U.S. births.  This will go a long way toward ensuring all children enter elementary school ready and excited to learn, especially children of color from low-wealth families and economically marginalized communities.

Engage in the ongoing livable wage campaign for the nation’s childcare workforce.  Sound early childhood development for the next generation of talent is honorable work and should be compensated accordingly.”

To read the rest of the recommendations on the Yonder, click here.

SOURCE: The Daily Yonder

Expanding Medicaid Could Save Rural Hospitals in the South, Says Proponents of Build Back Better

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In a story for Facing South, Medicaid could save hundreds of rural hospitals located in the southern part of America, if the states with the most hospital closures decided to expand. As pandemic money runs out, rural health care facilities are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and Medicaid is one way states can put an end to closures.

From the story: “Health care advocates say expanding Medicaid in the region could help rural hospitals stay afloat and provide needed care. To date, 38 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and 12 states have not, with eight of the non-expansion states in the South. The non-expansion states have seen more rural hospital closures.

“The data has shown a tremendous positive impact to rural facilities in states that have expanded Medicaid,” Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, told Facing South.

Southern states have seen the most hospital closures over the last 17 years, according to the Sheps Center. There have been 24 closures in Texas, 16 in Tennessee, and 11 in North Carolina — all Medicaid non-expansion states.”

Currently there are two bills in Congress waiting to address the issue. But as the clock runs out on funding, the tension is rising to find some way to keep rural facilities open.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

SOURCE: The Rural Blog, Facing South

Daily Yonder: Rural Areas With Little Internet or USPS Coverage Face Increased Challenges Getting Free COVID Tests

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In a new story from The Daily Yonder, the federal government is sending out free COVID-19 tests to every American. However, if you live in rural America and have a spotty Internet connection or a long drive to your Post Office box, getting the tests is easier said than done.

From the story: “First, there’s already the issue with the U.S. postal system and delays in delivery, said Christopher Shaw, author of First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat.

“Then there’s also the website, which is new, and just came online,” Shaw said in a phone interview with the Daily Yonder. “And I’m hearing that there’s some glitches with that. So we’ll have to get those ironed out. If people are at an address, where there’s more than one household and address and one household has already ordered from that address, there could be some confusion.”

Another issue is that in some parts of rural America there are no street addresses to enter into the ordering system, he said. 

Aside from the USPS issues, Shaw said getting online to order the tests may be an issues for some residents.

“If you’re in a rural place where you don’t really have access to the internet, which is a sizable number of people in this country, then how are you going to use the website to order in the first place?” he said.”

Despite these hurdles, according to the story the United States Postal System is still a good way to get COVID tests to virtually every American, regardless of where they live. And with the at-home tests, patients won’t have to wait days or even weeks to get results back from a lab.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

SOURCE: The Daily Yonder

When Writing About COVID, Local Journalists Should Stay Away From “Elite” Sources, According to New Research

According to a new study from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, reporters working their beats need to stick to local sources when talking about COVID-19 and ongoing pandemic measures, otherwise they may further alienate community members already wary of government public health officials.

From the story, published on the Institute’s website: “While demographic factors — such as age and race — and partisanship explained some variance in views about vaccination and public health recommendations, anti-elitism accounted for more than a third of this variance. Though partisanship has been seen as an important factor in the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, this finding indicates the story is more nuanced, especially given that the media — one of the primary purveyors of public health information — is itself considered “elite” by many who hold anti-elitist values.

However, the results demonstrated that the effect works both ways; an increase in trust from “elitist” information sources corresponded with an increase in favorable attitudes toward public health recommendations and vaccination.

“One of the core problems with scientific solutions for COVID-19 is that those who develop them and communicate about them are distrusted by a significant percentage of the population,” Luisi said. “Now we know that much of that distrust can be explained by anti-elitism, which is prevalent enough to undermine our ability to achieve herd immunity.”

According to the researchers, this rise in distrust can be tempered if local newspapers and reporters write stories geared towards what the local health officials are doing, and not what the “elite” are doing. Seeing what is being accomplished in their own backyards, without mentioning such entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), could lead local folks into following more pandemic guidelines, and eventually an end to the pandemic in rural America.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

SOURCE: The Rural Blog, www.rjionline.org