Despite a recent decline in the speed with which COVID-19 has spread across America, there is no end in sight for what certainly will be tens if not hundreds of thousands of more deaths in the first half of this year. Vaccination distribution has been slow, and mutations of the disease have spread to the United States from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. These may not be more deadly, but they almost certainly spread faster, and current vaccinations may not treat them. The jury remains out on these questions.
The traditional metrics for measurement of the COVID-19 spread remain primarily increases in confirmed cases and fatal cases by day. Confirmed cases number 26,920,474 in the United States and continue to rise by over 200,000 most days. Deaths are at 459,404 and rise by more than 4,000 on many days.
Other widely used measures are cases and deaths per 100,000 people. The advantage of this yardstick is that it allows for a comparison from place to place, regardless of how large or small a state or county is. By this measure, some regions are much safer than others and some more dangerous or deadly.
The deadliest county in America as of February 3 is Bath County, Virginia, where the death rate per 100,000 people over a 14-day average is 13.01. It is on the central western border with West Virginia. Bath County has 4,307 residents, according to the U.S. Census, spread across 529 square miles. In other words, it is sparsely populated.
Bath County residents have a median household income of $49,738, which is about $20,000 below the national average. The value of owner-occupied homes is $165,300, about three-quarters of the national number. The portion of the population that lives in poverty is 10.9%, about the same as the national figure. Almost 90% of the population is white.
After Bath, the next deadliest county is Stonewall County, Texas, with a figure of 10.31. Its population is 1,385. It is followed by Foard County, Texas, at 10.15. It has a population of 1,408. That is followed by Rosebud County, Montana, at 10.15. Its population is 9,250. Then comes Throckmorton County, Texas, at 10.04 and with a population of 1,567.
Another measure of the severity of the disease is cases per 100,000 over a 14-day average. The leader in this category is Wilson County, Kansas, at 537.75. Its population is 8,780. Next on the list is Marshall County, Kansas, at 400.96. Its population is 9,798. Behind it, Caldwell County, Texas, has a figure of 371.11 and a population of 41,401. That is followed by Washington and Robertson Counties, both in Texas, at 357.18 and 344.24, respectively. The former’s population is 34,796, and the latter has 16,890 residents.
The new data shows two things. The first is how hard hit America’s smaller counties by population have been. The other is the recent surge of cases in parts of rural Texas.