The rates at which COVID-19 confirmed cases in America have risen in the past few days have taken daily counts to near-record levels. For several days in the past two weeks, the number jumped above 60,000. The winter may be worse. Fatal case rates have not been as bad as when the nation was hardest hit by this measure from early April to mid-May, when the counts rose above 2,000 nationwide on some days. Yet, the number of coronavirus fatalities has begun to near 1,000 a day.
Rates of both confirmed and fatal cases are highly uneven across the nation. In some counties, particularly in the South, death rates have reached extremely high levels. One county in Georgia had the highest death rate by far on October 18.
Hancock County, Georgia, had a death rate of 5.16 per 1,000 people. The national figure is less than one, so the Hancock figure is over five times “normal.” Hancock County sits east of Atlanta. Its average population over the past five years was 8,535. That population is made up mostly of Black Americans. In the county seat, Sparta, 84% of the population was Black, according to the 2010 Census, while 15% of the population was white.
Georgia is the seventh hardest-hit state, based on confirmed cases of 341,310. Fatal cases number 7,657.
The next hardest-hit county is Emporia, Virginia, with 4.83 deaths per 1,000 people on October 18. The county has a five-year average population of 5,381. It is in the southern part of the state, near the North Carolina border. Galax County, also near the border, ranks third by the same measure at 4.52. Its population is 6,638.
Next on the list based on deaths per 1,000 is Randolph County, Georgia, near the Alabama border. Its rate was 4.09 on the 18th, and it has a five-year average population of 7,087. Just behind it, East Feliciana, Louisiana, came in at 3.85, with a population of 19,499.
Another measure of how hard a county has been hit is confirmed cases per 1,000. On October 18, this figure was highest in Trousdale, Tennessee, where the number was 179.36. The county has a five-year average population of 9,573. Lincoln Country, Arkansas, was next at 162.03. Its five-year average population is 13,695.
Chattahoochee, Georgia, followed with a confirmed case rate of 159.56 and a population of 10,767. Next on this list are Lafayette, Florida, at 144.21 (population 8,744) and Lake, Tennessee, at 127.16 (population 7,526)
Each county, based both on confirmed death rates and on confirmed case rates, is in the South, as well as in relatively rural areas.
As the disease spreads, more and more counties are likely to post figures higher than they have since May. However, few will come anywhere close to the number in Hancock County.
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