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COVID-19: Impact on rural communities

April 06, 2020 posted by Vidant Health News

While COVID-19 hotspots across the country continue to be concentrated in urban environments, small cities and towns are still at risk.

“We’ve never had this virus before, sweep through the world like it is,” Vidant Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum said.

COVID-19 has taken the world by storm – with no signs of slowing.

“I think it’s very clear this doesn’t care where you live and what you believe and who you think you are," Dr. Waldrum said. "No one is immune to this very infectious virus.”

That includes here in the East, where people are at greater risk of more serious infection.

“As we’ve talked about for a long time, rural communities — especially in North Carolina — tend to have a higher burden of disease," Dr. Waldrum said. "They’re older, they have the diseases that this virus likes to pick on. So if you have those diseases, it’s a much more serious virus.”

Health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke or cancer are serious enough on their own. It doesn't help that so many of the counties Vidant serves are also considered among the most vulnerable in the country when it comes to levels of poverty, education and housing quality.

“Let’s remember, rural North Carolina has 1.4 million people in it," Dr. Waldrum said. "There is nothing to say that this virus doesn’t affect rural communities and we are starting to see data that actually, rural communities are adversely impacted.”

Which is why taking steps to stop the spread — through handwashing, social distancing and staying home — continues to be so important.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, is bring solutions to help our communities. I mean, we want our communities, we’ve said it all along — Stand Up For ENC. It’s, how do we make our communities vibrant and how do we do what’s right for our communities," Dr. Waldrum said. "That hasn’t changed just because there’s COVID-19. If anything, it’s made it more significant and important.”

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