A sudden rise in coronavirus cases hits rural states without stay at home orders
The test results came back on Easter Sunday. Tammy had been feeling “kind of crappy” when she went to her doctor in rural southeastern Oklahoma last week. A sign of possible pneumonia prompted her to get a coronavirus test later that day at the McCurtain County Health Department in Idabel.
When it came back positive, Tammy, who spoke on the condition that CNN not use her last name to protect her privacy, had already quarantined herself. Isolated, she decided to write her governor, Kevin Stitt, the first-term Republican and one of just 8 governors in the US to resist issuing a statewide stay-at-home-order. Tammy had voted for Stitt but she didn’t agree with his decision.
Her message to him was simple: “Shut this mess down.”
Just as cases are starting to plateau in some big cities and along the coasts, the coronavirus is catching fire in rural states across the American heartland, where there has been a small but significant spike this week in cases. Playing out amid these outbreaks is a clash between a frontier culture that values individual freedom and personal responsibility, and the onerous but necessary restrictions to contain a novel biological threat.
The bump in coronavirus cases is most pronounced in states without stay at home orders. Oklahoma saw a 53% increase in cases over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over same time, cases jumped 60% in Arkansas, 74% in Nebraska, and 82% in Iowa. South Dakota saw a whopping 205% spike.
The remaining states, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming each saw an increase in cases, but more in line with other places that have stay-at-home orders. And all of those numbers may very well undercount the total cases, given a persistent lack of testing across the US.
President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies that the restrictive social-distancing measures aren’t necessary in rural America — and that these states even offer a model for reopening the country.
“If you look at Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota — that’s a lot different than New York, it’s a lot different than New Jersey,” Trump said at Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing, adding that 29 states are “in that ballgame” of being ready to be reopened first.
“We have large sections of the country right now that can start thinking about opening,” Trump added.