Rural California Is Having a Hard Time Accepting COVID-19

On the road in rural California.Kevin Drum

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The LA Times tells us that rural California is having trouble accepting the fact that COVID-19 doesn’t stop at the borders of big cities:

Deeper inland, Joe Tanner, who was recently named city manager of Lindsay, a town of about 13,400 residents, is facing resistance from retail shops refusing to shut down.

The town took immediate and obvious measures to take the governor’s March emergency declaration seriously from the start, Tanner said. Officials established social distancing measures at government facilities, closed the police department lobby and installed plastic shields at the finance department, where residents pay utility bills.

Still, they’ve struggled to get a few nonessential stores to close, despite calls from the county and efforts from the city to educate them on the importance of restricting contact with others, he said. The City Council is planning to vote on an emergency ordinance to fine the stores and could also force closure, he said.

Because of Lindsay’s rural lifestyle and its location away from major highways, he said, some may think it’s safe. “There is still an element of the community that we still need to educate,” he said.

Maybe this is just the natural reaction of rural residents. Maybe it’s because this is Trump country and they believe it when Sean Hannity tells them that the pandemic has been exaggerated by the liberal media. Or maybe they’re just like everyone else, refusing to take it seriously until they start seeing cases on their doorstep.

In the best case, rural America will get lucky: the countermeasures taken everywhere else will suppress the pandemic before it has a chance to move into less-populated areas. In the worst case, rural America will act as a brand new pool of COVID-19 cases that will restart the spread of the virus after we thought the worst was over. Stay tuned.

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