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Expert Warns Virus in 'New Phase' As Cases Surge

According to Birx—as well as hard data—urban dwellers aren’t the only ones at risk.

At the start of the pandemic, the virus was primarily spreading in urban, densely populated cities across the country. However, according to one of the country's leading coronavirus experts, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, we have entered a "new phase" of our battle against COVID-19, and the virus is dangerously spreading in less populated areas. 

"You Are Not Immune"

During an appearance on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Birx explained that there has been a definite shift since March and April, when the virus was centralized in big cities. "It's extraordinarily widespread," she said. "It's into the rural as equal urban areas, and to everybody who lives in a rural area: You are not immune or protected from this virus."

Birx explained the shift as a "new phase," noting that mitigation efforts by state and local governments are starting to be impactful. However, more than ever, taking precautionary measures is a must. 

"No matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask, and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces, but more importantly if you're in a multi-generational household and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city you need to really consider wearing a mask at home assuming that you're positive."

The CDC updated their section on Rural Communities last week, explaining why those who live in sparsely populated areas are at an increased risk from the virus. "About 46 million Americans live in rural areas, which face distinctive challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic," they explain. "Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some rural residents at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe illness. In general, rural Americans tend to have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity as well as less access to healthcare which can negatively affect health outcomes. They are also less likely to have health insurance."

Why Rural Communities Are Targets

They added that rural communities are also becoming increasingly more diverse, both racially and ethnically. "Racial and ethnic minority groups including, African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 and having severe illness," they explain. 

The CDC also referenced recent research calculating the "unique susceptibility" of specific rural communities to the virus, which found that about 33% of them were highly susceptible to the virus, "driven by older and health compromised populations, and care facilities for the elderly." 

No matter where you live: Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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