As the rate of new cases of COVID-19 continues to decline, the effort to get back to “normal” has become a race between vaccination on one hand and what many experts believe are careless efforts to reopen the economy on the other. The decision by Texas Governor Gregory Abbott to drop the mask mandate of the nation’s second-largest state caused particular consternation among those who want to allow vaccination rates to rise further before public gatherings begin.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States number 29,465,761. The rate at which they rise on a daily basis has dropped by two-thirds in the past two months. However, the figure remains about 25% of the world’s total. Fatal cases total 534,746, which is a fifth of the global total.
The national vaccination rate has risen steadily for the past three weeks and has reached 19% for those who have received at least one dose. Just under 10% have had two shots. A total of 127,869,155 doses have been delivered, and from those 95,721,290 shots have been given.
Public health officials use measures other than raw numbers to determine the presence and spread of the disease. Often, the figures used are deaths and cases per 100,000 people. This allows comparisons from state to state and county to county on an apples-to-apples basis, because it adjusts for population counts.
The United States has more than 3,000 counties. The one hardest hit, as measured by deaths per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, is McMullen County, Texas, at 10.79. This county is due south of San Antonio, toward the Mexican border. Corpus Christi is to its southeast, on the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, McMullen County has a population of 743, and that population is 54% white and 42% Hispanic. The median household income in the county is $62,000, slightly below the national average. At 10.5%, the poverty rate is close to the national number.
Second on the list of deadliest counties is Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. It is northeast of the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area. Its figure is 6.94, and its population is 6,177.
The third worst county based on recent deaths per 100,000 is Menard County, Texas, at 6.73. It is followed by Henderson County, Illinois, at 6.23. Its population is 6,884. In fifth place, the number in Motley County, Texas, is 6.18, and the population there is 1,156.
These five counties show how horribly COVID-19 can and has hit small, rural counties. McMullen will fall from the top of the list, as have dozens of counties since the pandemic began, but the damage will have been done.