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Coronavirus Spreads Through Rural America

Cases of the coronavirus have begun to spike in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota – states where governors have not issued stay-at-home orders.

Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming governors have not yet ordered residents to stay in their homes, Politico reports. President Donald Trump has referred to several of these states in noting that the coronavirus has not severely affected populations there, despite laxer restrictions than other states that have implemented strict stay-at-home policies.

“They have fewer people and have lots of room,” Trump said Tuesday night at the White House, according to Politico. “There are numerous states that are in great shape right now…They are set to open practically now.”

But cases have increased more than 30% in North Dakota in the last five days, similarly increasing 22% in Arkansas, 26% in Oklahoma, and 260% in South Dakota, Politico reports, comparing these outbreaks to the 26% increase in cases over the same period in New York.

In Nebraska, case counts have increased almost 30% in three days, Politico reports from the Nebraska Health Department. The Grand Island and Hall County area has seen 214 confirmed cases of the virus — numbers which amount to almost a quarter of total coronavirus cases in the state, according to Politico, and  28 workers have tested positive at JBS USA beef plant, the largest employer in Grand Island.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts says that his voluntary social distancing plan is working, however. Ricketts has pushed residents to remain at home, to avoid large gatherings, and to implement the six-foot rule at work.

“This is a program that depends on people exercising personal responsibility and their civic duty,” Ricketts told Politico Wednesday. “This is about making that decision, not the heavy hand of government taking away your freedoms.”

Researcher Charles Branas, chair of the Epidemiology Department at Columbia University who tracks hospital shortages and virus outbreaks, warned Politico that every state is at risk from the virus.

“Perhaps there are governors who believe they have the medical capacity to deal with this [without a lockdown order],” Branas told the publication. “But I don’t know if that is wise, because once it gets out it can spread unabated and overwhelm any medical system of any size. Every state is at risk and should have aggressive social distancing policies.”

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