The first coronavirus hot spots in the country were densely-populated cities with international ports of entry, like New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle.
But the virus has now penetrated deep into rural areas around the country. And according to Politico, a new study has shed light on the catastrophic problems this has created for rural communities: more than half of U.S. rural communities have no ICU beds, forcing hospitals to transfer patients far away to other facilities that can accommodate severe COVID-19 cases.
“The findings, published in Health Affairs, underscore the economic disparities shaping the nation’s coronavirus response, especially as the virus shifts from wealthier coastal metros to rural communities in the Southeast and West that have historically struggled with access to care,” reported Tucker Doherty. “Using Medicare data to pinpoint ICU beds, the authors found 49 percent of all low-income areas didn’t have any ICU beds, compared to just 3 percent of the wealthiest communities.”
One finding of the study was that, although there was also an economic gap in access to ICU beds, the urban/rural divide was much greater, with low-income urban areas having more ICU beds per capita than high-income rural areas.
On Monday, coronavirus task force official Dr. Deborah Birx issued a grave warning, saying, “It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas. To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.” President Donald Trump reacted angrily, calling Birx’s warning “pathetic.”