WVU study shows major differences between how people fared with COVID-19 between urban, rural areas

PITTSBURGH — A new WVU study has concerning statistics showing a significant difference between how people with COVID-19 fared in urban versus rural areas.

Dr. Sunil Sharma, the Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at West Virginia University, found that 54% of rural patients died within a month of being admitted to the ICU, compared to 30% in urban areas.

“In some ways, there was false sense of security that we’re rural, we’re not as densely packed, and that it’s not affecting us,” Sharma told Channel 11. “That’s just not true.”

Sharma believes several factors are driving these trends, including misinformation, a lower rate of vaccination and a lack of access to robust hospital systems equipped with resources like intensive care units.

“This is a deadly disease, much more deadly in rural areas than urban areas,” Sharma added. “I think this is a lesson for all rural areas across America, that they’re hit with this double whammy of misinformation, low vaccination rate and just not robust system. Lack of ICU, lack of access.”

Rural areas fared well early in the pandemic, but they’re now seeing a spike in cases. Sharma says he’s seeing more people having a change of heart and coming in to get vaccinated.

“Everyone is entitled to their personal opinion, of course,” Thomas Walters from Pittsburgh said about vaccines. “If someone is willing to listen and ask questions, I’d do whatever to point them in the right direction.”

But some people don’t trust the vaccine, what’s in it or the long-term effects.

Darlene Schramm’s family of four isn’t vaccinated, and they don’t plan on it.

“A lot of people I know did get, but a lot of people I know didn’t get it either,” Schramm added.  “It’s 50/50.”

Doctors hope these findings help support more research studies in rural areas which are often underrepresented in science.