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New analysis from the Surgo Foundation, a non-profit in Washington D.C. dedicated to addressing health and social problems, reveals a list of 20 rural health communities that are the most vulnerable “testing deserts.” These are areas without a testing site and the most deaths per capita.  

Surgo’s research reveals that 64% of all rural counties in the United States do not have a COVID-19 testing site, leaving 20.7 million in a testing desert. Black people are three times as likely to live in one of those areas. In these “highly vulnerable” rural communities, based on Surgo’s COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index, cases and deaths are growing much faster than in their “less vulnerable” rural communities.

“When it comes to COVID-19, not all rural counties are created equal. We’ve identified highly vulnerable rural counties that are far less likely to overcome a COVID-19 outbreak due to a number of socio-economic, health, and structural factors,” Sema Sgaier, executive director of Surgo Foundation, said in a statement. “Within these highly vulnerable rural counties, a troubling pattern is emerging: they now have as many new COVID-19 cases per week, on average, as urban counties. And with so many COVID testing deserts in rural America, the true spread in these hot spots could be even higher.”

The nonprofit used data from GISCorps about COVID testing sites to discover the 20 most vulnerable rural counties in the U.S. today with no test sites and the most COVID deaths per capita. Of these 20 counties, 15 have a higher proportion of Black residents compared to the national average, the foundation says.

The list of the 20 worst rural counties for COVID-19 testing:

  1. Terrell County, Georgia

2 Northampton County, Virginia

3 Holmes County, Mississippi  

4 Neshoba County, Mississippi

5 Bienville Parish, Louisiana

6 East Feliciana Parish, Louisian

7 Attala County, Mississippi

8 Orleans County, New York

9 Kemper County, Mississippi

10 Greer County, Oklahoma

11 Calhoun County, Georgia

12 Carroll County, Mississippi

13 Lee County, South Carolina

14 Butler County, Kentucky

15 Worth County, Georgia

16 Wilkinson County, Mississippi

17 Adair County, Kentucky

18 Claiborne County, Mississippi

19 Panola County, Texas

20 Jackson County, Kentucky


More information here.