AS the coronavirus rages across the United States, mainly in large urban areas, more than a third of US counties have yet to report a single positive test result for Covid-19 infections, an analysis by the Associated Press shows.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that 1,297 counties have no confirmed cases of Covid-19 out of 3,142 counties nationwide.
“They’ll be later to get the infection, they’ll be later to have their epidemics,” Christine K Johnson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Davis warned.
“But I don’t think they’re going to be protected because there’s nowhere in the US that’s isolated,” she added.
The number of counties without a positive coronavirus case has declined rapidly, dropping from over half as the AP was preparing to publish.
Of the counties without positive tests, 85 per cent are in rural areas – from predominantly white communities in Appalachia and the Great Plains to majority Hispanic and Native American stretches of the American Southwest – that generally have less everyday contact between people that can help transmit the virus.
At the same time, counties with zero positive tests for Covid-19 have a higher median age and higher proportion of people older than 60 – the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus – and far fewer intensive care beds should they fall sick.
Median household income is lower, too, potentially limiting health care options.
The demographics of these counties hold major implications as the Trump administration develops guidelines to rate counties by risk of the virus spreading, empowering local officials to revise social distancing orders that have sent much of the US economy into free fall.
New York City remains the epicentre of the nation’s outbreak.
But several other cities including Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Boston are now being monitored as potential hotspots, threatening to push the overall case count in the US higher and higher.