Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXXVI): From a town and school in exurban Atlanta

This story appeared on the front page of today's New York Times, dateline Jefferson, Georgia, population 9,432.  Richard Fausset reports under the headline, "A Small Georgia City Plans to Put Students in Classrooms This Week."  The story features Jennifer Fogle, whose family moved to the community from Indiana 14 years ago.  Here's an excerpt:
Ms. Fogle, 46, a stay-at-home mother, thinks these decisions are unwise. But after weighing her options, including online education promoted by the district but taught by a private company or the state, she decided it best to let her two teenage children embrace the risks and physically attend Jefferson High School. It seemed futile, she said, to go against the grain in a heavily pro-Trump community where many see masks as an infringement of their personal freedom — and in a state where the Republican governor, Brian Kemp, has been urging districts to reopen their classrooms despite the pandemic’s growing toll. 
“I can’t fix it,” Ms. Fogle said. “So I have to learn, how do we live life as normal as possible and still try to protect ourselves?” 
The reopening plans have starkly divided Jefferson, a middle-class city of about 12,000 people, offering a likely preview of the contentious debates ahead for many other communities whose school years start closer to the end of summer. 
An online petition created by two Jefferson High seniors calling for a mandatory-mask rule has garnered more than 600 signatures. But a competing petition demanding that masks remain a choice for students has attracted more than 200 signers, some of whom have left comments that underscore the politicized nature of the disagreement. “Only liberals can get rona and I’m not a liberal,” wrote one, using a slang term for the coronavirus. “TRUMP2020 no mask fo me.”
Some data on Jefferson, in Jackson County, which is contiguous to Gwinnett, a more central part of the greater Atlanta metro area:  The county has seen 13 deaths related to coronavirus, and the infection rate is 1067 per 100,000 people. 
But in nearby Gwinnett County, which has about 12 times as many people, the infection rate is considerably higher and 216 people have died. More broadly, Georgia, in the week ending July 23, has seen an average of 3,287 new cases per day — an increase of 42 percent from the average two weeks earlier. Many Jefferson residents traditionally commute for work to Atlanta and beyond.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXXV): El Dorado County, California

Posted at the Apple Bistro, Placerville, California 
That's the focus of a story in today's Sacrmaento Bee, headlined "To mask or not to mask?  El Dorado County faces a reckoning this week."  Here's the lede for Tony Bizjak's story:
For a month now, El Dorado County has been the only county in the Sacramento region that has avoided landing on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “watchlist” of counties that require tighter restrictions to fight the coronavirus
* * * 
Now, with infections on the rise in El Dorado, county officials say they may be days from being added to the governor’s list, a step that would require more businesses to close and would likely force schools to keep doors closed when instruction starts in a few weeks.
The county notably has experienced just one death from the virus. But the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last two weeks alone and the percentage of El Dorado residents’ tests coming back positive for COVID-19 is twice what it was a month ago.
This story from July 17, 2020, about Placerville's Apple Cafe (also varyingly referred to as the Apple Bistro) ran on a local TV station.  Here's the lede:
A Placerville restaurant openly violating public health rules is getting a mix of backlash and support.

There’s a sign encouraging people not to wear masks and gloves in front of the Apple Bistro. The owner said he disagrees with county health rules, so he’s not implementing them.
I've written about El Dorado County, population 181,058 and definitely metropolitan by OMB population standards, many times during the dozen-year history of this blog.  The county lies just about 15 miles east of where I live, where far eastern Sacramento County meets El Dorado County in a posh and nouveau riche suburb of Greater Sacramento called El Dorado Hills.  Another 15 miles east of that is the county seat, Placerville, known as "old hang town."

Some prior posts about El Dorado County, which stretches many miles east to the Nevada state line, at South Lake Tahoe are hereherehere and here.  The El Dorado County government is famously anti-government, as evinced in this story, where the County Board of Supervisors, voted to support "the grass-roots (and grass-fed) agriculture revolution," and--in particular--local farmers who are bucking state regulations by selling directly to consumers.  You can read more about the county's anti-government (state, federal and international) antics in that post, extending all the way to resistance of the United Nation's Millennium Development goals.

It just so happens that I was in El Dorado County this weekend, and few folks were wearing masks, especially in the southern part of the county, which has been especially spared by the virus.  First, we arrived at the restaurant closest to our cabin in the area of Fairplay to pick up a "to go" order, and no one in the outdoor dining space was wearing a mask--perhaps not surprising because it was outdoors.   I've noticed our NextDoor discussion group for the area features residents from both ends of the masking debate.  I stopped at a farm stand on the way home, but neither the Asian farmer manning the stand nor other customers were wearing masks, so I made a hasty exit in spite of the delicious looking strawberries and blackberries.  In Placerville, I popped into an olive oil vendor where I buy my favorite locally-made red sauce, and all customers were wearing masks and the store keeper was wearing a face shield.  I was also happy to see that many of the Main Street restaurants in Placerville had expanded seating out onto the street parking area, though few customers were availing themselves of that option.  I don't know if more folks were eating inside, but I sure hope these restaurants survive. 

And on this Monday evening as I wrap up this post, this came across my Twitter feed:  that the second most engaged story on FaceBook right now is a Breitbart video of a group of doctors claiming that hydroxychloroquine cures Covid and that "you don't need a mask":
Twitter Feed at 9:00, July 27, 2020
And apropos of nothing related to El Dorado County, I heard a journalist say on Cap Radio's Insight this week that older people are more susceptible to conspiracy theories.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Literary Ruralism (Part XXIV): Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout

From Camden Hills State Park, looking toward Penobscot Bay, Maine, April 2019
Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2008.  Strout's webpage describes the book thusly, with attention to the fictional town of Crosby, Maine.
In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. 
At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.
We know from reading the book that Crosby is coastal and it's under an hour's drive from Portland because one family featured in the book drives its children there to attend a private school.   We also know that it's not too far south of Belfast, a place mentioned as one where Crosby folks people gather. 
Belfast, Maine, April 2019 (c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019

I took this photo in Belfast last year, when I drove up the coast from Portland to Mount Desert Island, part of Acadia National Park.  Here is a post from that trip, this one about a small town in coastal Maine, down the peninsula from Bath.  Two law-focused posts from the same trip to Maine are here and here.    

Both Olive Kitteridge and its sequel, Olive, Again (2019), illustrate the lack of anonymity that marks rural communities.  In particular Olive, as a retired middle school math teacher, knows seemingly everyone in Crosby, and she remembers students she taught decades earlier.  Those relationships, with former students and their parents, are fodder for a number of the book's narrative threads.
Damariscotta, Maine, April, 2019 (c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019

Here's an excerpt from near the beginning of the final chapter of Olive Kitteridge, a chapter headed "River."  I selected it because it sums up some of the conflicts inherent in rural gentrification and the influx of retirees into otherwise static, rural communities.
Henry did not always warm up to people or retirees, those who came up the coast to live out their last days in a setting of slanting light. They were apt to have money, and, often, a grating sense of entitlement. For example, one man felt entitled to write an article in the local paper, poking fun at the natives, saying they were cold and aloof. And there was the woman who’d been overheard at Moody’s store, asking her husband, “Why is everyone in this state fat, and why do they all look retarded?” She was, according to whoever had told the story, a Jew from New York, and so there was that. Even now, there were people who’d have preferred a Muslim family to move in rather than be insulted by a Jew from New York. Jack Kennison was neither, but he was not a native, and he had an arrogant look.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXXIV): Cases in my home county spike by 55 (out of 7,700 residents) in a single day

Jasper School employees May 2020 
My mom sent me a text message yesterday afternoon telling me that 50 folks at the Newton County nursing home had tested positive for the coronavirus.  I wasn't sure of her source, but today, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's main coronavirus story, which mentioned 990 new cases in the state, included this about Newton County, population 7,753:  "an increase of 55 in Newton County, representing a fivefold increase in the sparsely populated county."  According to the New York Times Tracker, the number of cases in the county went from 2.1 per 100,000 residents two weeks ago to 111 in 100,000 today.  This confuses me since the 111 figure would suggest a county population of 50,000, but perhaps I'm missing something here. 

Screenshot of New York Times coronavirus tracker 8 pm Pacific time, July 25, 2020
The northern part of Newton County is shown in red, just above the text box.
The story quotes Jan Larson, mayor of Jasper, the county seat:
It’s frightening.  We’re almost in shock to be honest with you.
The story then quotes Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, who said the cases were
demographically elderly.  So we’re trying to determine if that’s a nursing home environment or some other facility.  
The report moves on to quote Health Department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill:
We’re aware of roughly 50-60 cases [at the Newton County Nursing Home in Jasper] 
The Democrat-Gazette story continues:  
A Health Department report listed just three cases among residents, and four among staff members, on Friday. 
McNeill said the new cases had not yet been added to the totals in the report.
Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, said the home “has received several positive tests for residents and staff.” 
Bunch wrote in an email: 
Newton County Nursing Home is doing everything they can to manage the situation and will continue to remain diligent in implementing containment measures.  As we know, the elderly are at the most risk for this disease.
The story notes that a nursing home staff member tested positive for the coronavirus in late March, at a time when there were only four cases in the county. 

The Arkansas Department of Health's map is shown here and in the screenshot below.  It is not as helpful as it might be because it depicts total cases as a raw number, not as a function of population density.  Thus Newton County appears in pale blue, two degrees more pale than the hardest hit counties shown in the darkest blue.

Newton County is in northwest Arkansas, three counties east of Oklahoma
and two counties south of Missouri. The pale blue doesn't look bad on a map
like this, but Friday's numbers mean the rate of infection is three quarters
of a hundredth,  which is a high rate of infection 
according to my infectious disease expert consultant. 

Back to the Democrat-Gazette story, which quotes Mayor Larson re: the governor's mask-wearing mandate:
We’re wearing masks  I did go into Harps [the grocery store in Jasper, previously Bob's AG] yesterday and I only saw one man not wearing a mask. … We’ve been doing well. People have stayed home, worn their masks.
As for Governor Hutchinson (R), he said that "the new cases in the county illustrate the virus’s reach."  I will add that if it has reached Newton County, it has reached the most remote parts of the state.  Hutchinson drives home the point after weeks of delaying the implementation of a mask order:
Everybody has to be mindful there’s not any area of the state’s that’s exempt.
The comments of Mayor Larson and Governor Hutchinson remind me of some photos my mom has sent me.  At the age of 76, she still works as non-certified personnel at the Jasper School.  She was going in a few days a week in May to be part of a team that accepted students' final homework assignments and shut down the building for the summer.  When I repeatedly admonished her then to wear a mask, she said everyone at the school was required to follow the CDC guidelines and wear masks and gloves.  They were also letting homework submitted by students sit for a few before touching it.  Yet when Mom sent me photos of what was happening at the school (which I solicited for use on the blog), no one pictured (in photo at top or the one below) was wearing a mask.

Picking up food for distribution to children who qualify for free lunches,
about 70% in this district.
My college friend, Bill Bowden, was one of the journalists who reported this COVID-19 story for the Democrat-Gazette, and he was kind enough to share some additional information about the outbreak in Newton County:

The Newton County Nursing Home is licensed for 70 beds.

At 2:45 p.m. on Friday, the Arkansas Department of Health’s website still listed Newton County with 18 total cases and seven active positive cases. Eleven people had recovered and 654 had tested negative.

An hour later, the updated website showed Newton County with 73 total cases, 61 active positive cases and 12 recoveries. A total of 676 people have tested negative in Newton County. There have been no deaths reported in Newton County because of covid-19.

Here's a post from early April about the coronavirus in Newton County, back when there was only a single reported case and the nearby Buffalo National River park was being closed as a result of the pandemic.

Back to the matter of masks, the Newton County Times published this interestingly equivocal statement by the Newton County Sheriff on July 22, 2020:
The [Governor's] mandate says that persons violating this mandate can be cited and, if convicted, receive a fine of $100.00, up to $500.00. However, first-time violators shall receive a verbal or written warning. Violators under 18 shall not be cited but only receive warnings. People cannot be jailed or detained for longer than it takes to issue a citation. It also says the mandate shall not prohibit law enforcement officers or local officials from enforcing trespassing laws or other applicable laws in removing violators at the request of businesses or other property owners. 
Sheriff Wheeler said "I feel like our citizens know when they should and should not wear masks and whether or not they fall into one of the categories that would exempt them from the mandate. If you see someone not wearing a mask, they may very well fall into one of the exempt categories and may not be required to wear one. Businesses may require patrons to wear a mask and, if customers refuse, the business is welcome to call us. But, citizens in public not wearing a mask may very well have a legitimate, exempted reason not to be. Please keep that in mind. We definitely don't want to cite citizens for this mandate and feel confident that the citizens and visitors of Newton County can make their own decision as to whether or not they fall under the mandate."
Finally, the Newton County Times this week also ran a press release from U.S. Senator John Bozeman (R) about CARES Act Funding to help rural hospitals. Here's an excerpt from the piece, titled "Covid-19 shows importance of rural health":
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is putting us in danger of an even larger urban-rural divide in the ability to access quality health care services. Hundreds of rural hospitals across the country could close as a result of the crisis. This means tens of thousands of rural patients could lose access to their nearest emergency room.

There was already a quiet storm brewing prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly half of rural America’s hospitals had been operating at a loss and closure rates were escalating dramatically, hitting a record high last year. Closures in 2020 are on pace to eclipse that number.

These already financially-strapped hospitals now face catastrophic cash shortages as the inability to provide non-emergency care has led to an even larger loss of revenue. Many have furloughed staff, instituted massive cuts or are shuttering their doors.

My colleagues and I are working to address this fragile situation and ensure that the health care needs of rural America are not lost in the rush to tamp down urban hotspots. I recently joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort with over 45 of my colleagues to ask the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to dedicate a larger share of the Provider Relief Fund specifically for rural health providers.

Created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Provider Relief Fund was allocated $175 billion to distribute to hospitals and healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response. At the time of our inquiry, only $10 billion of that total amount has been disbursed specifically to rural health care providers.

* * *

We asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar to allocate at least 20 percent of the remaining funds to rural hospitals and providers. Priority should be granted to facilities significantly affected by COVID-19 preparation as well as those providing care for a disproportionally high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients or populations with above average senior populations or co-morbidities. Likewise, providers in areas with limited access to health infrastructure and high numbers of uninsured patients also deserve this particular consideration.
I note that Arkansas is one of few southern states that did expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, effective January 1, 2014.  This has no doubt helped the state's rural hospitals, as has been the case in other states that expanded Medicaid.  Undermining that expansion, however, is the fact that the State then imposed a work requirement for Medicaid, a requirement that has been struck down by a federal judge.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

ABA Program on Legal Deserts: The Lawyer Shortage in Rural America

Find the full details here.  The event will take place on Tuesday, July 28, at 8 am Pacific time/11 am Eastern time.  An excerpt from the full announcement follows:  
Large swaths of rural America lack access to attorneys--including parts of most states.  As part of the 2020 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession, the ABA gathered information from each of the 50 states and created what is believed to be the most comprehensive set of maps showing where U.S. practicing lawyers are located and where they are missing.  The result presents a startling portrait of the lack of legal access in much of rural America, and the challenge that poses for policymakers and the legal profession in their quest for equal justice for all.
I'm thrilled to join ABA President Judy Perry Martinez, Prof. Lauren Sudeall of Georgia State,  and Patrick Goetzinger of South Dakota for this conversation.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Legal Scholarship: Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places

This piece by Andrew Davies of SMU Dedman School of Law and Alyssa Clark appears in the Maine Law Review symposium on rural justice system issues.  The abstract follows, and you can download the full article here:
Access to counsel for criminal defendants is a continuing challenge in rural localities, notwithstanding the mandates of Sixth Amendment jurisprudence. In this Article, we first review the state of the law on access to counsel in criminal cases, noting the latitude allowed to state and local governments in their policy decisions. We then examine empirical approaches to measuring access to counsel and describe in detail both the law and the data on this issue from the state of Texas. We present exploratory analyses of those data comparing rural and urban places for various aspects of access to counsel, including rules governing eligibility for, and rates of actual use of, appointed attorneys. We find that Texas counties appointed counsel to an average of 29% of misdemeanor defendants in 2016-17, but that rates were significantly lower in rural than urban counties. Total expenditures averaged $278 per case, though 8% of that amount was recouped from defendants. In rural areas specifically, we find the absence of any local towns and low lawyer populations were associated with especially low levels of access to counsel. The presence of an organized defense provider such as a public defender office, however, was associated with significantly higher rates of access to counsel in counties. Finally, we review our findings in the light of other research on the impact of programs targeting rural areas intended to improve access to counsel for defendants.
My earlier article, with Beth Colgan, studying the delivery of indigent defense in Arizona, is here

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Literary Ruralism (Part XXIII): My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout (2016)

What follows is the protagonist's description of her hometown, Amgash, Illinois.  Lucy Barton lives in New York City at the time she is writing this, and her mother is visiting from Amgash to help keep Lucy company while Lucy is hospitalized. 
We were oddities, our family, even in that tiny rural town of Amgash, Illinois, where there were other homes that were run-down and lacking fresh paint or shutters or gardens, no beauty for the eye to rest upon. These houses were grouped together in what was the town, but our house was not near them. While it is said that children accept their circumstances as normal, both Vicky and I understood that we were different. We were told on the playground by other children, “Your family stinks,” and they’d run off pinching their noses with their fingers; my sister was told by her second-grade teacher – in front of the class – that being poor was no excuse for having dirt behind the ears, no one was too poor to buy a bar of soap. My father worked on farm machinery, though he was often getting fired for disagreeing with the boss, then getting rehired again, I think because he was good at the work and would be needed once more. My mother took in sewing: A hand-painted sign, where our long driveway met the road, announced SEWING AND ALTERATIONS. And though my father, when he said our prayers with us at night, made us thank God that we had enough food, the fact is I was often ravenous, and what we had for supper many nights was molasses on bread. Telling a lie and wasting food were always things to be punished for. Otherwise, on occasion and without warning, my parents – and it was usually my mother and usually in the presence of our father – struck us impulsively and vigorously, as I think some people may have suspected by our splotchy skin and sullen dispositions. 
And there was isolation. 
We lived in the Sauk Valley Area, where you can go for a long while seeing only one or two houses surrounded by fields, and as I have said, we didn’t have houses near us. We lived with cornfields and fields of soybeans spreading to the horizon; and yet beyond the horizon was the Pedersons’ pig farm. In the middle of the cornfields stood one tree, and its starkness was striking. For many years I thought that tree was my friend; it was my friend. Our home was down a very long dirt road, not far from the Rock River, near some trees that were windbreaks for the cornfields. So we did not have any neighbors nearby. And we did not have a television and we did not have newspapers or magazines or books in the house. The first year of her marriage, my mother has worked at the local library, and apparently – my brother later told me this – loved books. But then the library told my mother the regulations had changed, they could only hire someone with a proper education. My mother never believed them. She stopped reading, and many years went by before she went to a different library in a different town and brought home books again. I mention this because there is the question of how children become aware of what the world is, and how to act in it. 
How, for example, do you learn that it is impolite to ask a couple why they have no children? How do you set a table? How do you know if you are chewing with your mouth open if no one has ever told you? How do you even know what you look like if the only mirror in the house is a tiny one high above the kitchen sink, or if you have never heard a living soul say that you are pretty, but rather, as your breasts develop, are told by your mother that you are starting to look like one of the cows in the Pedersons’ barn? 
How Vicky [Lucy's sister] managed, to this day I don’t know. We were not as close as you might expect; we were equally friendless and equally scorned, and we eyed each other with the same suspicion with which we eyed the rest of the world. There are times now, and my life has changed so completely, that I think back on the early years and I find myself thinking: It was not bad. Perhaps it was not. But there are times, too – unexpected – when walking down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a stranger about the shape of sweaters newly arrived. This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.
(pp. 11-16).

Lucy is from Amgash, Illinois, more of a pinprick on the map than a town proper, and she grew up poor, sharing a single room with her brother, her sister, and her parents, a seamstress and a repairman of farm machinery; there was no heat, no toilet, and never enough to eat.  
There's a good dose of rural lack of anonymity in the story, too.  I'll never forget the passage in the book where Lucy's classmates call her dirty and poor, indignities I never had to experience because even in a poor rural place, we were not at the bottom of the tightly packed, narrow hierarchy of poor, low-income, and modest-means folks.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Black Lives Matter in Rural America (Part VI): Five stories out of "small towns"

Ok, so none of these five stories is based in a place that is "rural" by the U.S. Census Bureau's miserly definition:  a population cluster of fewer than 2,500 or living in "open territory."  These are from places I would characterize as small cities, mostly in micropolitan counties (non metro counties with a population cluster larger than 10,000 and a total population of no more than 100,000).

Catskill, New York, population 11,775,  is the dateline for the first story, "‘A Slap in the Face’: N.Y. Town Rejects Black Lives Matter Painting."  Sarah Maslin Nir reports.  Here's a short excerpt:
The street painting would stretch about three blocks, from Village Pizza II to the stoplight at the southern end of Main Street, spelling out “Black Lives Matter” on the pavement. 
The proposal didn’t seem like too much of an ask; in the weeks since George Floyd was killed by the police in Minneapolis, the phrase has been painted on streets from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C., and, on Thursday, even in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan. 
But village leaders in Catskill balked, offering several counterproposals instead, including one that would have allowed the painting, but in the Black area of town.
Next, Mike Baker reports from the other side of the country but also for the New York Times, dateline Selah, Washington, population 7,147, in Yakima County, in the central part of the state.  The headline is "Seeing ‘Black Lives Matter’ Written in Chalk, One City Declares It a Crime."  The subhead sums things up: "In a small Washington town where people of color say they have faced discrimination, activists ran into trouble for drawing “Black Lives Matter” in the streets. Then their white neighbors came to their defense."  Glad to know of the "balance" there--the white neighbors on the right side of the matter.  On a related note, it's interesting how provocative the writing or painting of "Black Lives Matter" on streets has proved to be, with people from New York City to Martinez, California attempting to paint over the city-sanctioned messaging.     

The next story in the Washington Post is out of southwest Virginia, Marion, population 6,000.  The headline is "A teen led a Black Lives Matter protest in his small town. A cross was burned in his yard."  An excerpt follows:  
For more than a month, as protesters in thousands of cities and towns across America had demanded an end to police brutality and systemic racism, people in Marion had watched in admiration or anger.

As Confederate statues fell in Richmond and the rebel flag was banned from NASCAR races and stripped from the Mississippi state flag, some hoped that change would also come to this sleepy corner of Appalachia. Others dreaded it.

Now America’s culture war had arrived in the form of competing protests, held on the same July 3 afternoon, in the same town. 
And at the center of it all was Travon, who in a few short months had gone from preparing for his high school track season to leading the largest civil rights march in Marion in a generation to being targeted with an apparent hate crime.
And then there is this, also from the Washington Post, which takes us back to the Midwest.  Tim Craig and Aaron Williams write under the headline, "A New Generation Challenges the Heartland,"dateline Fort Dodge, Iowa, population 25,206.  Here's an excerpt:  
The number of young people of color living in the Midwest has surged over the past decade, as the older white population has nearly stalled. Forty percent of the nation’s counties are experiencing such demographic transformations — a phenomenon fueling the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the country and forced racial reckonings in communities, colleges and corporations nationwide. 
A Washington Post review of census data released last month showed that minorities make up nearly half of the under-30 population nationwide compared to just 27 percent of the over-55 population, signaling that the United States is on the brink of seismic changes in culture, politics and values. 
The protests reflect demographic changes that social scientists have long predicted would hit America around 2020 as the country moves closer toward becoming majority-minority. As this young, diverse cohort enters adulthood, it’s challenging the cultural norms and political views of older white Americans, said Stefan M. Bradley, a historian and professor of African American studies at Loyola Marymount University.
* * *
These Black Lives Matter protesters don’t always prioritize defunding police departments or tearing down Confederate statues. Their goals are simpler but perhaps just as revolutionary: to force white neighbors not used to encountering so many black and brown faces in their towns to acknowledge their experiences with racism. 
The final story is back to the New York Times, where Campbell Robertson published this, dateline Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, population 20,268, in the south central part of the state. Here's a key paragraph:
But beyond any policy changes, which could be slow in coming, a significant consequence of recent weeks could be the realization for many Americans in small towns that their neighbors are more multiracial and less willing to be quiet about things than most people had assumed.
That paragraph hints at both rural and small town lack of anonymity, and like so many other stories from recent weeks, it also defies the stereotype of stasis associated with rural communities. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

New data on maternal deaths notes rural and racial disadvantage

Austin Frakt reports for the New York Times Upshot, "What's Missing in the Effort to Stop Maternal Deaths."  Here are the two mentions of rural: 
There are large maternal mortality differences across racial and ethnic groups. The latest figures from the C.D.C. indicate that for Black women, the maternal mortality rate is 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. It’s less than half that, 14.7, for white women and less than one-third that, 11.8, for Hispanic women. There are also differences by region, with new mothers in rural areas facing greater threats to health than those in urban ones.
* * * 
Though the statistics may not be perfect, America’s maternal mortality rate is higher than it need be and disproportionately so for Black Americans and those in rural areas. The evidence suggests that targeted public health investments and policy changes like expanding Medicaid coverage could help. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXXIII): Recent reports from Minnesota to Arizona to Oregon

The first story is reported by the New York Times out of Umatilla County, Oregon, population 75,889, in the northeastern part of the state.  The headline for Kate Conger's story is "‘We’re Not an Island’: Rural Outbreaks Challenge Oregon’s Virus Success." The subhead says as much or more, "Oregon was sandwiched between two states that had big coronavirus outbreaks but managed to keep its numbers low. Until it couldn’t."  Here's an excerpt that focuses on rural Oregon:
The increase has been most drastic in rural parts of the state where outbreaks have been spurred on by large gatherings at churches, food-processing facilities, funerals and graduation parties. 
Ms. Brown has ordered Oregonians to wear masks in public buildings, starting July 1. She has also introduced a spending package to fund protective equipment and quarantine pay for farm workers.
I last wrote about what was happening in this part of Oregon in the relatively early days of the pandemic and sheltering-in-place.

The second rural-focused story is by Bloomberg news, out of Austin, Minnesota, population 24,718, a meat-packing center in the southern part of the state, right near the Iowa state line.  (It also happens to be the hometown of Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl).  Here's an excerpt from Adam Minter's story:
The course of the Covid-19 pandemic in rural Mower County, Minnesota, is hand-written across six easel-sized sheets of paper affixed to the wall of the local Emergency Operations Center. Six cases and no deaths were recorded on March 22, the first entry. Pam Kellogg, Mower County's community health division manager, points to the fourth sheet, covering much of May. “It was the third week when things really hit us.” On May 31, Mower reported 64 new cases, for a total of 318 out of a population of about 40,000. By mid-June, it had the second-highest case incidence in Minnesota, and by the end of the month it had nearly 1,000 infections. 
Mower’s experience is increasingly common. Of the 10 U.S. counties with the highest number of recent Covid-19 cases per resident, nine are nonmetropolitan areas with populations under 50,000. There are several factors behind that surge, including the prevalence of older populations, meat-processing plants and communal living among immigrant labor forces. But what it adds up to is a quietly growing crisis. For many of these rural communities, confronting the coronavirus pandemic will require a lot more than issuing stay-at-home orders — and there won’t be much help from Washington or anywhere else.
Other coronavirus reporting with a rural angle is here, out of Bisbee, Arizona (population 5,575), from Kurtis Lee of the Los Angeles Times.  The headline is "The 1918 flu hammered this Arizona mining town. Now a new scourge looms."  Here's an excerpt:
As the death toll climbs for the novel coronavirus — Arizona is a hot spot in the U.S. with intensive care unit beds almost at capacity — many people in this small, reinvented town have started to look back 102 years, searching for warning signs and lessons of hope. 
The magnitude of infections in this state is alarming, with cases growing over the last three weeks by 150% and eclipsing more than 2,200 deaths. And, like the century-old flu that preceded it, the virus has upended lives even in far-flung outposts like Bisbee (population 5,000), which sits defiantly tucked in a canyon 12 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
* * *  
At the Copper Queen Library — one of the oldest in the state, which remained open during floods, fires and Wild West shootouts — a sign near the entrance explaining the current closure reminds people that during the 1918 flu the library shuttered its doors for 76 days. 
The library — which has 32,000 books, including ones on the town’s history — has now been closed 99 days and counting. 
While Cochise County, where Bisbee is located, has recorded only 22 deaths from COVID-19, the local economy has begun to crater.
Another story out of rural southeastern Arizona is here, from NPR, about the death of a teacher in the Hayden-Winkelman school District, which straddles Pinal and Gila counties.  Wikipedia says Hayden, population 662, is "in the process of becoming a Ghost town."

Here is a story about food insecurity and how one community in California's northern Sierra is responding, from Capital Public Radio's Rural Reporting Project.  Nina Sparling reports. 

And here is the latest from The Daily Yonder on what's happening in rural places.   The headline for Tim Marema's story is "Rural America’s Daily Rate of New Infections Climbs 150% in Last Month."  the subhead is, "A list of the rural counties with the highest rates of new cases includes many with prisons and meatpacking plants. Many other counties are those with a high proportion of non-whites."

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How international students' presence benefits rural students at U.S. universities

That's what I heard this morning on NPR when Elissa Nadworny interviewed Michael Freeman, director of international students at the University of Arkansas, who "says international students are crucial to campuses."  She then includes this quote from Freeman:
Some of our students from rural towns, you know, have not met people from abroad. And so this gives them that opportunity to have that influence in their lives.
This is interesting.  It suggests that rural kids are rubes who will benefit from exposure to interntional students.  I can't say I disagree with that.  It reminds me, for better or worse, of the justification articulated in affirmative action cases for having students of color on college campuses:  racial/ethnic diversity will be good for white students.

I'm still wondering when authorities and institutions will realize--as Justice Powell did in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bakke:  that rural students also provide valuable perspectives and life experiences to the benefit of urban students and other students more widely seen as representing diversity.  Read more here and here.

After this NPR news segment, the Trump administration dropped its ban on international students who are not taking in-person or hybrid classes at U.S. universities. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXXII): More on rural media

This story is out of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, population 22,377, where Dan Barry of the New York Times features the last journalist standing, Evan Brandt, with The Mercury.  The lede incorporates the substance of the story that last journalist is covering:  food distribution to needy children at a school.
An essential worker drove his cluttered Toyota Corolla through the early spring emptiness, past a sign outside a closed parochial school asking people to pray. Time to bear witness in a pandemic. 
He pulled up to the closed Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School, where masked employees were distributing bags and boxes of food. Dozens of cars waited in line for curbside pickup, many with children eager to spot their teachers. 
In the global context of the coronavirus, the moment was small. But to those who live around a Pennsylvania place called Pottstown, the scene reflected both the dependence on subsidized school meals and the yearning to connect in an unsettling time of isolation. It was a story.
Pottstown is just about 40 miles from Philadelphia, so hardly rural, unless of the exurban variety.  As usual, Dan Barry files a compelling story well worth a read in its entirety.  Don't miss other stories in this series about coronavirus consequences for rural (and not-so-rural) media outlets. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXXI): Not a single case yet in Modoc County, California

Entering Modoc County, July 2018
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2018
Julia Prodis Sulek reports for the San Jose Mercury News under the headline, "This one California county has zero coronavirus cases. What’s its secret?"  The subhead is "Remote Modoc County, nuzzled next to Nevada and Oregon, is so far COVD-19 free."  Here's an atmospheric excerpt:
Taqueria in Alturas, 
This high desert county of alfalfa fields, wildlife refuges and 9,000 people has not recorded a single case of COVID-19. Not even one. Ever.
It’s the only county in California that appears to be coronavirus free — one of only five in seven Western states that can still make that claim, at the moment.
The story quotes Modoc County spokesperson Heather Hadwig: 
We’re all shocked we don’t have it yet. We know it’s coming. We thought it was coming for weeks. Mostly, though, we’re ready and very, very prepared.
One of California's most rural counties, Modoc initially complied with statewide orders but more recently has declined to do so.  Indeed, Modoc County officials were among the earliest to defy Governor Newsom's shelter in place directives, and they re-opened without state permission in early May.  The Modoc County Sheriff, Tex Dowdy, has said he will not enforce state orders on mask wearing.  The story quotes Dowdy:
I’m getting paid to come to work every day. For me to tell them that they can’t and further burden them with writing them a citation or fining them when they’re already hurting? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for any community.
Modoc Livestock Yard
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2018
Sulek explains that there wasn't a lot to shut down when the governor's order was issued in March:
When the lockdown orders were put in place, there really wasn’t much to lock down. With years of drought hurting farmers and online shopping killing retail, towns in Modoc County have been struggling for years. In the county seat of Alturas, home to 2,600 people, half the businesses on Main Street — about 30 — were out of business before the pandemic.
As for other factors, Sulek notes the low population density and precautions Modoc County officials are taking:
[N]ot many live in cramped quarters. Most people here work for the government managing federal lands that make up a large portion of the county. The county screens and quarantines migrant farmworkers and seasonal firefighters when they first arrive.
And then there is Modoc's role as a
Even the influx of “coronavirus refugees” who fled their urban confines in L.A. and San Francisco to camp along the Pit River and sling back beers at the Round Up Saloon haven’t carried COVID with them. 
And here's a great line that juxtaposes what BLM means in cities and what it means in the rural western United States:
In these remote reaches, BLM still stands for Bureau of Land Management. But that doesn’t mean the Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t shown up.
For more on Black Lives Matter in rural America, read this
West of Alturas, Modoc County, July 2018  (c) Lisa R. Pruitt 
Earlier posts about Modoc County are herehere, here, and here.   Prior posts here and here mention Modoc County in relation to the pandemic. 

Another great recent story out of rural northern California is by Capital Public Radio's Rural Reporting Project, "'It’s A Way Of Life': Rural California Towns Deal With Loss Of Income, Identity As Coronavirus Cancels Summer Events."  The dateline is Taylorsville, population 150, in Plumas County, population 20,000, in the northern Sierra.  The featured festival that got canceled there due to coronavirus:  The Silver Buckle Rodeo.  Plumas County is south of Modoc County, separated by Lassen County.  

Friday, July 10, 2020

Pandemic helped Iowa community appreciate value of grocery store enough to save it

The Des Moines Register reports from Jewell, Iowa, population 1,215, in Hamilton County, in the central part of the state.  Folks in Jewell raised 235,000 to rehab and restock the store, whose predecessor, the Heartland Market, had closed in January.  Interestingly, it was the pandemic that jumpstarted efforts to re-open the store.
after the coronavirus had shut down restaurants ... volunteers began offering take-home dinners as a fundraiser most Sundays. Volunteers made pork loin sandwiches, brats, hamburgers and sausages. 
"With the grab-and-goes, donations started pouring in," said Mischelle Hardy, treasurer of the Jewell Market board, created to raise money to reopen the store.
"One Sunday, we raised $30,000," said Hardy, who owns Sew Bee It quilt shop in Jewell.
The Jewell Main Street Community's grant to match up to $20,000 in donations helped the effort. So, too, did the public health emergency. 
Hardy said the value of the local store really hit home during the outbreak. Residents were reluctant to "go to the bigger towns to get groceries," given concerns about the virus' spread, she said. And they "started coming out of the woodwork" to support the local store. 
Families began dumping $50s and $100s in the donation bucket every time they picked up a meal, Hardy said. And the Jewell Market also sold about 300 ownership shares in the store at $400 a pop.
You'll find other posts about rural grocery stores on this blog here, here, here, herehere, and here.  And here's one from when the blog was so new (2007) that I hadn't yet learned to embed links!  Searching "grocery store" will bring you to lots of other posts mentioning grocery stores in rural America, including in the era of the pandemic. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Literary Ruralism (Part XXII): The Liar's Club by Mary Karr (Redux)

In this prior post, I wrote about the Texas neighborhood in which Mary grew up, in the town of Leechfield.  That prior excerpt depicted her mom melting down, and the neighbors turning away.  Now I'm going to share an excerpt about her mother's return--with a new husband--to the same house in the same neighborhood in Leechfield:
If the pope had advanced on us, outfitted in embroidered robes with acolytes behind wagging gold incense burners, the neighbors would have been held in less thrall.  No sooner had that low yellow car halted in its tracks than every family on the block started from their various houses, prepared to stay a while, wearing wind-breakers and winter jackets and rain slickers in case the fat clouds overhead broke open.  They pulled their lawn chairs out of garage storage, aimed them to face us, and sat watching like we were some drive-in movie projected across the soft gray horizon.  The misty rain that speckled the air didn’t stop them.  Mrs. Dillard just unfolded her clear plastic rain bonnet from its tuckaway pocket and tied it right under her chin, so her hairdo wouldn’t get sticky.  Mrs. Sharp wielded the massive black umbrella they toted to football games.
 The men who weren’t working stood together under the eaves of the Carters’ garage, smoking, the red coals of their cigarettes visible when drawn on.  They were watching too.  Don’t think they weren’t.  The kids scampered behind their front-yard ditches like nothing special was happening, all but Carol Sharp, who crossed the to stand right at the edge of our yard.  I gave her the finger in full view of everybody.  That set her loping back to tattle, her Keds slapping against the wet asphalt.  
I walked back and forth along the ditch’s slope till it struck me that I’d once seen a cow dog patrol its territory with the exact same level of concentration I was bringing to bear.  Mother and Hector toted some more dresses out the house.  They were made of silk, colors of whipped cream and beige and palest tangerine shimmering in the gauzy air.  I could just imagine the neighbor ladies reckoning their worth—“Why, one of them alone’s worth Pete’s whole paycheck . . ." 
I hated them at that instant, hated their broad heavy bottoms slung low in those stripy garden chairs.  I hated their church suppers, their lumpy tuna casseroles, their Jell-O molds with perfect cubes of pear and peach hanging suspended.  I hated their crocheted baby booties and sofa shawls, the toilet-paper covers shaped like poodles everybody worked on one summer.   
For the first time, I felt the power my family’s strangeness gave us over the neighbors.  Those other grown-ups were scared.  Not only of my parents but of me.  My wildness scared them.  Plus they guessed that I’d moved through houses darker than theirs.  All my life I’d wanted to belong in their families, to draw my lunch bag from the simple light and order of their defrosted refrigerators.
pp. 266-67. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Another illustration of how rural socio-spatiality conceals

That was the thesis of this book chapter from 2014, The Rural Lawscape:  Space Tames Law Tames Space, which elicited a great deal of controversy.  One controversial aspect--perhaps the most controversial among editors of the volume and workshop attendees in the run up to publication--was  my assertion that rural places could be more lawless because legal actors struggle to surveil rural locales, in part because of their vastness and because of the natural privacy associated with material distance.   

So I couldn't help feel a bit chuffed when I saw the news of where Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's associate, has been hiding out for months--on a 156-acre acre estate in rural New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire Union Leader's headline is "'A good place to hide:' New Hampshire locals had no idea Jeffrey Epstein ally holed up nearby."  Richard Valdmanis reported for Reuters.  An excerpt follows, beginning with a description of Maxwell's hideout, a "luxury timber-framed home perched on 156 acres of New Hampshire pine and oak forests boasts dramatic views of Mount Sunapee's foothills, but [ ] secluded enough to have kept her out of eyeshot of the tight-knit locals.
It was not until Thursday that other residents of this rural corner of New England knew her whereabouts, after FBI agents arrested her on charges she lured underage girls for the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.
Maxwell's property is on the outskirts of Bedford, population 1,650, which features "white colonial homes, horse farms, stone walls and a historic covered bridge." Valdmanis quotes 53-year-old Laurie Colburn, whose home is less than a mile from Maxwell's estate,
I had no clue she was there.  Goes to show you, you don’t always know who your neighbors are.
The story quotes several other residents who also indicate they were oblivious to Maxwell's presence.  One, 74-year-old Alan Grandy, says:
People mainly know each other here, but there are plenty of places to hide away and not be seen.
Gandy said he'd gotten to know most people in town by "working for years at the counter in the local grocery store."

47-year-old Nate Herrick, an English teacher, commented:  
She’s right up to the Washington town line, and that is the smallest town in the world I ride my motorcycle along that road, and there’s just not much back there.
I have written a great deal about rural lack of anonymity.  In this case, it seems, Maxwell's anonymity was preserved because of the remoteness, the size of the landholding--and the fact that Maxwell had the fiscal resources to avail herself of the protective veil of rural privacy. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXX): Density of cases highest in nonmetro counties in the South

I've been taking screen shots for the past couple of weeks of the New York Times graphic showing, at any given time, the ten counties with the highest density of coronavirus cases per population.  They consistently show a lot of nonmetro counties in Arkansas, as well as counties in adjacent states like Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.  A few Arizona counties and one California county are consistently on the list, too.  Here are the screen shots, starting with two I took on July 4th.

Screenshot New York Times July 4, 2020, 9:18 pm

Screenshot New York Times, July 4, 2020, 11:18 am


Screenshot, New York Times, July 3, 5:54 pm

Screenshot, New York Times, June 29, 2020, 7:10 am
McDonald County, Missouri, population 23,083 is just north of Benton County, Arkansas, which has been a metropolitan hot spot for a few weeks.  Indeed, McDonald County is part of that Arkansas-anchored metro area.  This was just published about McDonald County, by the nearby Springfield News Leader.  This statement is from a McDonald County presiding commisioner  Bill Lant, who says he is not too worried: 
[Lant] noted most of the more than 750 cases in his county could be attributed to asymptomatic workers at Tyson and Simmons Foods plants in Noel, and the state had sent workers to help with testing and contacting people who may have been exposed.

"Everything as far as I'm concerned is doing just fine," he said. "We just need to continue to be careful."
Read more about the meatpacking industry as a hub for coronavirus here.

East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, population 7,759, is the most northeasterly county in the state.   

Yell County, Arkansas has a population of 22,185. It is in the Arkansas River Valley, west of Little Rock.

Hot Spring County, Arkansas has a population of 32,923.  Its county seat is Malvern, and it is somewhat southwest of Little Rock.

Lee County, Arkansas has a population of 10,424.  Its county seat is Marianna, and it is in the Delta region.

Sevier County, Arkansas has a population of 17,058.  I wrote a great deal about Sevier County here, in particular its significant LatinX population.

Anderson County, Texas has a population of 58,458.  It is in east Texas.

Santa Cruz County, Arizona has a population of 47,420.  It is south of Tucson, on the Mexico border.

Chatahoochee County, Georgia has a population of 11,267.

Stewart County, Georgia, population 6,058, is in the same southwestern region of the state as Chatahoochee.

Imperial California is metropolitan, with a population of nearly 200,000, but it is intensely agricultural.  I wrote more about it here and here.

Yuma County, Arizona, also metropolitan with a population 195,751, is just across the state line from Imperial County, California.  Both are highly agricultural.

Brewster County, Texas, population 9,232, and home of Big Bend National Park and the trendy town of Marfa.  That region was mentioned in this recent post.

Grenada County, Mississippi has a population of 21,906.

Claiborne County, Mississippi, in the Delta region, has a population of 9,604. 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Rural legal scholarship: Rural Spaces, Communities of Color, and the 'Progressive' Prosecutor

This piece is by Maybell Romero, Northern Illinois University, and it is forthcoming in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.  The abstract follows:
The concept of the “progressive prosecutor” has captured the attention of many newspapers, media outlets, district attorney candidates, legal scholars, and the public at large. The success of candidates declaring themselves progressive prosecutors has been tracked with much excitement by those who have sincere interests in criminal justice reform and has been lauded in many reform-minded camps. 
These progressive prosecutors, while located throughout the country, seem to have one geographic commonality — they generally hail from large cities or even urban metroplexes: These include Wesley Bell in St. Louis, Rachael Rollins in Boston, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, and Kim Foxx in Chicago. In the meantime, disproportionate contact between police and minorities has increased in the rural reaches of the country, with prosecutors seemingly growing less reform minded with rates of incarceration in rural jurisdiction increasing. 
This paper joins others in casting suspicion upon the notion of progressive prosecution, questioning whether such an appellation should exist given the current nature of the job in the United States. It also serves as a warning; that while such prosecutors have seemed to become more common in large cities, that practitioners and scholars should not forget that reforms that occur in large jurisdictions sometimes do not extend to those suffering injustices in small communities.
Download the full article here

Friday, July 3, 2020

Coronavirus in rural America (Part LXIX): More on the hit to journalism--and jobs generally--in small towns and cities

I'm back tracking here to a late May story out of Pueblo, Colorado, population 106,595 (not exactly rural, but a place with a significant extraction economy). The headline is "An American Jobs Crisis with Few Reporters to Cover It."  Here's the lede to Abe Streep's story:
In late April, Jim Richerson, the chief executive officer of the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center in Pueblo, Colo., emailed Blake Fontenay, the editorial-pages editor at the town’s newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain. Richerson and Fontenay occasionally discussed happenings at the Arts Center, which had temporarily closed and laid off most of its staff because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Richerson hoped Fontenay, a 54-year-old newspaper veteran from Tennessee, might be interested in a story about the center’s virtual dance classes. 
Since the paper — the oldest daily in the state — had laid off its business editor the previous spring, Fontenay had written a local business column. His editorial voice was often optimistic, counseling positivity during a recent spate of layoffs in town. But when Fontenay replied, he said he could not produce the story; he had been laid off himself. 
His last Chieftain column, titled ‘‘A Journalist’s Final Whistle?’’ invoked his father and grandfather, both of whom had been journalists, and reminisced about the paper he started himself in elementary school. ‘‘I guess I could be bitter,’’ he wrote, ‘‘but that’s just the way life is in the newspaper business these days.’’
A key data point:  "Between March 15 and May 16, 476,613 people in Colorado applied for unemployment benefits — nearly as many as applied in all of 2009 and 2010, according to the state Department of Labor and Employment."

I've written elsewhere on the blog about the rural newspaper crisis, aggravated as it has been by the pandemic.

And here's another quasi-rural media story, this one out of Missouri, about two women newspaper owners who walked out on the paper when their father, the newspaper publisher, ran a racist syndicated cartoon in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protests in early June.  The dateline was Washington, population 13,982, in Franklin County, Missouri, population 101,492, and Michael Cavna reported for the Washington Post.  More coverage of that incident is here.

Post script from July 5, 2020:  Another story of local media faux pas is out of Anderson County, Kansas, population 8,102, where a newspaper editor compared the Kansas governor's mask wearing requirement to the Holocaust.  John Hanna reported for the Associated Press.  Here's the lede:
A Kansas county Republican Party chairman who owns a weekly newspaper apologized Sunday for a cartoon posted on the paper’s Facebook page that equated the Democratic governor’s coronavirus-inspired order for people to wear masks in public with the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. 
Dane Hicks, owner and publisher of The Anderson County Review, said in a statement on Facebook that he was removing the cartoon after “some heartfelt and educational conversations with Jewish leaders in the U.S. and abroad.”