Jen Lingo, R.N., walks a resident of the assisted living center in Dayton General Hospital back to her room. Dayton, a small town in rural southeast Washington, has an aging population, had its first positive test for Coronavirus and is waiting on results of more tests. Photo: Nick Otto for the Washington Post

The novel coronavirus can spread faster in densely populated cities than in rural areas, but rural America has a higher-risk population and fewer safety-net programs for people who get sick.

By the numbers: Rural residents are, overall, older than urban dwellers and are therefore more susceptible to this virus. Per Census Bureau data, 17.5% of the rural population is 65 or older.

  • Rural workers are less likely to have paid sick leave benefits. Just more than half of those working in service jobs, construction and farming have paid sick leave, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Remote work is not possible in the majority of rural America due to the lack of high-speed broadband. One-third of rural residents don't have fixed broadband service, per Federal Communications Commission data.

The biggest problem, though, is the spotty access to health care. More than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, according to a Health Affairs study.

  • Even if they did have access to good doctors, many would forgo treatment because they lack health insurance.

Of note: Large portions of rural America are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession in the late 2000s, so it will be even harder for them to rebound from another economic downtown.

What's needed: "To assist vulnerable communities, policymakers should provide resources to the existing institutions in these areas, such as community centers, places of worship, and schools," wrote Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, in a recent analysis. "We must provide access to diagnosis, medical treatment, and eventually vaccines without cost."

Go deeper

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Pac-12 will play football this fall, reversing course

A view of Levi's Stadium during the 2019 Pac-12 Championship football game. Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Pac-12, which includes universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, will play football starting Nov. 6, reversing its earlier decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The conference's about-face follows a similar move by the Big Ten last week and comes as President Trump has publicly pressured sports to resume despite the ongoing pandemic. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game conference football season, according to ESPN.

Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.

Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:15 p.m. EST: 32,062,182 — Total deaths: 979,701 — Total recoveries: 22,057,268Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:15 p.m EST: 6,967,103 — Total deaths: 202,558 — Total recoveries: 2,670,256 — Total tests: 97,459,742Map.
  3. Health: Cases are surging again in 22 states — New York will conduct its own review of coronavirus vaccine.
  4. Business: America is closing out its strongest quarter of economic growth.
  5. Technology: 2020 tech solutions may be sapping our resolve to beat the pandemic.
  6. Sports: Here's what college basketball will look like this season.
  7. Science: During COVID-19 shutdown, a common sparrow changed its song.

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