INDIANAPOLIS — The White House coronavirus response team is making it clear to rural Hoosiers that no one is impervious to the virus.
“It is extraordinarily widespread. 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. And, that’s why we keep saying no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces,” detailed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.
The Indiana Rural Health Associating (IRHA) says rural counties have pros and cons when it comes to battling the coronavirus. They say rural spots tend to have older and sicker residence utilizing medicare. They also say the lack of internet strength can cause problems during the pandemic.
“It may limit the ability for individuals to work from home, which can increase the risk for them to return to work,” explained IRHA CEO Cara Veale. “Telehealth specifically, a lot of those options are limited in rural communities. A lot of metropolitan areas have unlimited high-speed internet to provide telehealth to their patients, and lot of our rural communities have that, but the patient’s ability to log in may be difficult as well.”
Rural county health departments can also have a wealth of knowledge on their websites, or in some instances, have a direct link to state health guidelines and advice. Places like the Brown County Health Department direct Hoosiers to their Facebook pages, where they routinely post information about advice or free test locations.
“A lot of times that’s where people get their information from is from the internet, if you have the capacity to do so,” said Veale.
Should an outbreak occur near a rural home with a multi-generational family inside, Dr. Birx suggested members wearing a mask in their house to protect older loved ones.
“If the individual may work in a healthcare facility, or has been in contact with someone with coronavirus, or an organization or institution that is heavily populated with close proximity with other individuals, I wouldn’t be surprised with more individuals returning home wearing masks,” added Veale.
Being in a less populated area has its perks as well. It can allow for increased social distancing and fewer public encounters.
“Because of the lower population density, I think, I’m hopeful I should say, that contact tracing is a little more feasible,” says Veale.
IRHA says hospitals in rural counties had to get creative when the virus first struck, but they believe experiences in hospitals over the last few months will have any rural healthcare system prepared for an outbreak.