The Latest: Rural hospitals in Midwest face viral surge

Coronavirus
Virus Outbreak Lithuania Daily Life

People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus wait at a bus stop, in Vilnius, Lithuania, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. There is an increase in the coronavirus infection rate in the country. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

WESSINGTON SPRINGS, S.D. — Rural parts of the American Midwest that had previously escaped the worst of the coronavirus are now seeing a surge — and hospitals are struggling to keep up.

Counties across Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana sit among the top in the nation for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. In counties with just a few thousand people, the number of cases per capita can soar with even a small outbreak — and the toll hits close to home in tight-knit towns.

As the brunt of the virus has blown into the Upper Midwest and northern Plains, the severity of outbreaks in rural communities has come into focus. Doctors and health officials in small towns worry that infections may overwhelm communities with limited medical resources. And many say they are still running up against attitudes on wearing masks that have hardened along political lines and a false notion that rural areas are immune to widespread infections.

Even as outbreaks threaten to spiral out of control, doctors and health officials said they are struggling to convince people of the seriousness of a virus that took months to arrive in force.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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