Chance Of Dying From COVID-19 Is Higher In NC’s Rural Counties, Report Says

Jul 24, 2020

Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC

A report from UNC Chapel Hill says there's a higher probability of death from COVID-19 in some of North Carolina's rural counties.

A group of public policy students analyzed death and infection rates in each of the state's 100 counties. They found the highest-risk areas had more people of color, higher poverty rates and multiple meat processing plants.

Researcher Aditi Adhikari says existing health care disparities in rural areas could have factored in the results.

“Even if in a county there aren't a ton of cases, if there's a higher likelihood of death once you're infected, that may point to an issue of access in some of these counties,” Adhikari said.

It's generally been more difficult for people in rural areas to get tested for COVID-19. But Adhikari says her team considered each county's population when calculating the probability of death.

Another researcher, Anwesha Nandi, says the threat is greatest in places with higher poverty rates, more people of color and multiple meat or poultry processing plants.

“It's important to consider the demographics of the people who are working on these animal farms and meat processing plants,” Nandi said. “And the intersection of vulnerabilities they might have in terms of being infected with COVID-19.”

The report also found the pandemic has a disproportionately worse impact on people of color when it comes to finances and mental health.