Donald Trump says America's coronavirus curve is flattening but a second wave is coming for rural communities


By Emily Olson, ABC News Australia

May 15, 2020


Cuthbert is the kind of place where social distancing was practiced well before it became a buzzword.


Tucked away in a quiet, empty corner of south-west Georgia, the town has one traffic light, two grocery stores and a dozen churches. There are zero skyscrapers or subway cars or international airports.


So, when Cuthbert's 3,000 residents first learned about coronavirus — visualised as maps with big red circles around America's urban centres — they thought to themselves, "surely that sort of thing could never happen here".


And in that way, Cuthbert's experience foreshadowed what's quickly becoming a pattern with the rest of rural America.


The country's most vulnerable communities, lulled into a false sense of security, are getting slammed with America's second wave of the virus right as the rest of the nation sees an overall flattening curve and pushes to move on.


Cuthbert had the highest death rate per-capita in the US


At the time of writing, Cuthbert and the surrounding Randolph County (total population: 6,700) reported 169 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.


That may seem like a drop in the bucket in a country with 84,000 deaths and counting.


But the speed with which the virus took over the town meant that for a few days in April, Randolph County had the highest per capita death rate in America.


County coroner Rusty Chapman said he'd never seen anything like it during his 12 years on the job.


"I was born and raised in this community … Everybody knows everybody. You meet each other on the road, you meet each other at the grocery store, you meet each other at the gas station.


    "If I didn't know the actual victims themselves, I knew the family members who'd be there grieving," he said.


He reported the first COVID-19 death on March 27: a woman found by her husband after a 10-day health battle the local doctors had first diagnosed as severe allergies.


Her test results didn't come back positive until four days after her death. Like everywhere else in America, Cuthbert's early days of testing could take up to 14 days to produce results.


"By the time we had our first death, it had been here for two weeks. It was basically a silent enemy for two weeks before it started killing people," Mr Chapman said.


The next day was another death — a COVID-19 victim who'd never been taken to hospital. The next day brought another.


Mr Chapman said it was five or six days of daily COVID-19 deaths before the community realised it wasn't going to be just a few isolated cases.


It was around that time they learned it had hit the nursing home.


Rural healthcare is fragile even in the best of times ...


Outsourcing patients is more common than you'd think ...


The rumours spread just as fast as the virus ...


Some didn't realise the danger until it was too late ...


Once it hit home, the community managed to control the virus ...


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