The coronavirus has sparked worries of pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of people around the country potentially infected in a worst-case scenario.
Compounding the problem is that some of the hospitals that most frequently treat the poorest, sickest, and oldest patients — in other words, those most susceptible to suffering from serious COVID-19 symptoms — are already in a precarious position.
Outbreaks threaten to collide with the little-noted but significant rural health care crisis that the U.S. has undergone over the past decade.
Since 2010, 126 rural hospitals have closed. And according to statistics from the Chartis Center for Rural Health, 47 percent of rural hospitals in the U.S. were in the red in 2019.
Coronavirus presents a unique risk to an already fragile rural health-care system: in severe cases, the illness requires intensive, long-term care that takes up beds and staff, while the level of contagion could quickly overwhelm the capacity of smaller, rural providers […]