The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Keep Killing People Across Rural America, and in Missouri

In a normal year, hospitals in rural southern Missouri see a lot of snake bites and rolled ankles.

They’re ailments you acquire canoeing in the early autumn sun or “hold-my-beer-and-watch-this-ing” at night, as an emergency doctor in the area who requested anonymity because he had not been given clearance to speak on behalf of his hospital told The Daily Beast.

“Obviously, this year is really different,” said the doctor, who noted that he contracts out to several hospitals in the area, sometimes driving three hours from his home to serve rural communities coping with COVID-19 outbreaks. Although New York and Washington were dealing with overflowing hospitals and piles of body bags in March, the Missouri doctor told The Daily Beast he didn’t treat a coronavirus-positive patient until May.

Things increased slowly at first, but the past six weeks have been a test of fortitude for the doctor, his nurses, respiratory therapists, and their facilities staff. And regardless of who prevails in a presidential election that saw little campaigning in this erstwhile swing state, the scale of the suffering and loss of life here—coupled with lingering pandemic skepticism—demonstrates the size of the hole out of which the country must still dig itself.

“I get dirty looks going into the gas station wearing a mask,” said the doctor. “It’s just unfathomable the disconnect between being one of the worst areas for COVID, while people who are not necessarily healthy at a baseline are still just acting like there is absolutely nothing going on.”

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