The coronavirus is rapidly surging throughout the United States, with some small rural counties leading the country in per capita rates of confirmed cases, according to a CNBC data analysis.
Rural counties like Gunnison County, Colorado; Blaine County, Idaho; and Summit County, Utah have all been struggling with a recent surge in infections. The counties, located in states popular for skiing and hiking, are now grappling with tourists spreading infections and overwhelming local hospitals.
Tom Fisher, manager of Summit County, said his county got hit harder and earlier than the rest of the state due to a heavy skiing and tourist season.
“We are very aware that it doesn’t matter how it got here,” Fisher said. “It’s here. Now it’s a community spread issue.”
The sparsely populated areas are ill equipped to deal with the rapid spreads, and mayors and county officials are pointing to a major lack of testing and medical supplies for patients.
Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg said a tourist was the first confirmed case in the area. The county is now under a self-isolation order after a surge in community spread cases.
“Tourism is both a source of our revenue and economy and also the cause of where we are today,” Greenberg said. “We don’t have the testing that we need, just like everyone else in the nation. Everyone’s vying for the same resources.”
Joni Reynolds, the public health director of Gunnison County, said a lot of the virus spread in the county is due to outside visitors. The county has a small local population but is a couple hundred miles outside of Denver.
Health officials there have ordered visitors to leave the county and locals to stay at home as cases surge and testing capacity remains tight.
“We are a geographically large county and very rural. Our county is mostly public land,” said Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck. “Our chief responsibility is to listen to experts and make sure we’re using the safety and health concerns for everyone as the Northstar.”
There are more than 124,000 cases in the U.S. and at least 2,191 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The biggest economic stimulus legislation in modern U.S. history was signed by President Trump on Friday.