Is Rural America Prepared for COVID-19?

Is Rural America Prepared for COVID-19?

Premise Data COVID-19 Snapshot: Health Care Accessibility


By Saleel Huprikar | Data Science Intern

There are now over one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally and more than 300,000 cases in the United States. In the initial phases of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., the majority of the cases were concentrated in urban centers. However, more cases are starting to appear in rural areas; for example, Albany, Georgia, a rural town, has now become a coronavirus hotspot in just the past week

Since March 19, Premise has been running a COVID-19 survey in the U.S. that collects people’s sentiments regarding health care accessibility and their personal economic situations. As of April 2, Premise had collected 12,620 responses. Premise analyzed the survey question “How worried are you about decreased health care accessibility in your community,” and monitored the percentage of Contributors who either picked “very worried” or “extremely worried.” We examined people’s sentiments for this question based on whether they live in rural areas or non-rural areas (suburbs, city centers). We wanted to see if, from a medical standpoint, rural areas are prepared to deal with potential coronavirus outbreaks; their level of preparedness can be reflected in people’s attitudes towards health care accessibility in their communities. Of the 12,620 responses, 4,659 are from rural areas and 7,961 are from non-rural areas.  

From an aggregate standpoint, the data shows that the percentage worried about healthcare accessibility is higher in rural areas (68%) than in non-rural areas (57%), and there is a statistically significant difference between these two percentages (p-value < 0.01). We constructed a time series with a two-day simple moving average (displayed below), which shows rural areas consistently being more worried than their non-rural counterparts about accessibility to healthcare. There was neither a statistically significant percentage point increase nor a statistically significant percentage point decrease between March 19 and April 1 for the level of worry in rural areas, which suggests that the level of worry in these rural communities towards healthcare accessibility has been relatively stable albeit high.  

As the figure above illustrates, it is understandable that both rural and non-rural areas are concerned about healthcare accessibility, considering that the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the U.S. However, the higher level of anxiety among rural residents needs to be noted, because compared to non-rural areas, rural areas tend to have smaller, more underfunded hospitals. Also, rural residents are generally older, which means they are more at risk of developing severe complications from the virus. Despite the apparent stability of rural communities’ attitudes towards healthcare accessibility over time, the data and plot above still show that a large majority of rural communities are concerned, indicating that government officials should do more to assuage these concerns of rural communities by ensuring that rural towns have adequate resources to combat potential COVID-19 outbreaks.     

Premise will continue to gather information on these (and other) impacts tied to COVID-19, and track the attitudes towards healthcare accessibility and governmental responses, to see what effect they have on our Contributors’ sentiments and behaviors.

You can visit www.premise.com/COVID-19 to learn more about the data we are collecting about this global pandemic.

About Saleel Huprikar

Saleel Huprikar is a Data Scientist intern, who joined Premise Data in February of this year. He recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Economics, Mathematics and Statistics. Saleel is very passionate about the intersection of statistics and social sciences; he recently published a research paper in the Berkeley Economic Review that analyzes how state-level and local-level economic conditions (e.g. cost of living) affect people’s attitudes towards a federal minimum wage increase using a statistical regression framework. At Premise, Saleel has been involved in developing and implementing statistical methodologies in order to help Premise understand the data that it has collected and establish an analytical strategy for future data collection.