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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

Pakistan PM will "absolutely not" allow CIA to use bases for Afghanistan operations

Pakistan will "absolutely not" allow the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to use bases on its soil for cross-border counterterrorism missions after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells "Axios on HBO" in a wide-ranging interview airing Sunday at 6 pm ET.

Why it matters: The quality of counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan is a critical question facing the Biden administration as U.S. forces move closer to total withdrawal by Sept. 11.

5 hours ago - World

U.S. wants nuclear deal done before Iran's new president takes power

Iranian negotiatorAbbas Araghchi arrives at the Grand Hotel Wien for the nuclear talks. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration wants to finalize a deal with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal in the six weeks remaining before a new Iranian president is inaugurated, a U.S. official tells Axios.

Key quote: The official said it would be "concerning" if talks dragged on into early August, when Iran's transition is due to take place. "If we don't have a deal before a new government is formed, I think that would raise serious questions about how achievable it's going to be," the official said.

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