Rural

Micha de Vries

A new study finds that rural westerners care about the environment just as much as people in cities.

Catherine Wheeler

Buffalo, Wyoming is a small Western town with fewer than 5,000 residents. The historic Occidental Hotel still stands on Main Street. Murals of horses paint the sides of old brick buildings. Buffalo's most widely attended event is a four-day long festival that celebrates a fictional sheriff in town based on Buffalo and Johnson County.

You've probably heard about all the companies stepping up to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis: distilleries making hand sanitizer, outdoor clothing companies sewing face masks.

But what about the lack of quarantine spaces?

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

If you want a hearty breakfast in the small town of Thompson Falls, Montana, Minnie's Montana Cafe has you covered.

 


Nearly half of all counties in the Mountain West have largely been spared from COVID-19, according to recent data from the nonprofit organization USAFacts. Many of these communities weren't untouched, but all have had fewer than five confirmed cases of the virus. 

Many big cities are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases fall, but rural counties are seeing the opposite, according to a new analysis by the Daily Yonder, a rural nonprofit news outlet.

 


As the COVID-19 crisis took hold and schools in Lockhart, Texas, had to close and shift to remote learning, the school district quickly conducted a needs assessment.

They found that half of their 6,000 students have no high-speed Internet at home. And despite being a short drive south of Austin, a third of all the students and staff live in "dead zones," where Internet and cell service aren't even available.

None of this was surprising to Mark Estrada, superintendent at the Lockhart Independent School District.

Star Valley Health

Nationally, New York, South Dakota and many other states are experiencing an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients. But Wyoming isn't projected to reach its peak number of coronavirus cases until early May.

As so many telecommuters, teachers, college students and children work and learn from home, there have been fears that the Internet wouldn't be up to the task. But so far, it seems to be largely coping with the increased traffic.


The U.S. Postal Service is in trouble. It was already losing billions of dollars every year. Then COVID-19 happened.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Shelby, Mont. is home to a lot of wheat and barley fields, a decent high school football team, and an Amtrak train that passes through town twice a day. It's a place where almost everyone knows everyone. 

"The people here are fantastic," says William Kiefer, CEO of the only hospital in the county that offers 24/7 emergency medical services. "There's a huge sense of community."

So when people began getting sick and even dying from COVID-19, it hit hard. 

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Sippel

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, we hear a lot about the shortage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds. But there's another critical shortage, especially in rural areas, of health care providers.

Main Street, looking south toward Canyonlands National Park, in Moab, Utah
Hurricanehink via CC BY-SA 3.0

Recreation-based counties are seeing higher rates of COVID-19 than other rural counties, according to an analysis from the Daily Yonder, a non-profit publication that focuses on rural issues.

Remote rural towns are a good place to be early in a pandemic, as they tend to be more spread out, which potentially means fewer chances to catch a bug. Remote rural areas are also, by definition, way removed from major seaports, airports and often even big highways. So it generally takes longer for new viruses to show up in tiny towns, like Fredonia, Kan.

"I always say it's a hundred miles from anywhere," says Cassie Edson, with the Wilson County Health Department. "It's a hundred miles from Wichita, a hundred miles to Joplin, a hundred miles to Tulsa."

Support for our series Private Prison: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

New Report Spotlights The Rural West’s Connectivity Gap 

A report published this week by the National Association of Counties found that more than 75% of rural counties had internet and cellular connections that fell well below minimum government standards. The problem is especially acute in the Mountain West. For the most part, only wealthy enclaves like Jackson, Wyoming, have good broadband, the study’s connectivity maps show.

Rural hospital closures are becoming more common, and that’s leading to longer response times for ambulances to reach the scene of an emergency, according to a recent study.

Rural economies could get a massive boost under policies meant to decrease carbon emissions, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

 


New research shows that you don’t need a big population to foster innovation.

 


Nationwide, more and more people are surviving childhood. But researchers found those improvements might not be as big in rural areas. 

A report last year found that child mortality rates had improved. In fact, nationally, it looked like the country had met its 2020 goals. But then researchers took a closer look.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be discussing bills to fund programs that help pay for public schools and infrastructure in rural areas this Thursday.


Mackenzie Muirhead and Sarah Mock

Sarah Mock and Mackenzie Muirhead both loved growing up in Cheyenne. Now, as they build lives and careers in Washington, D.C., they both dream about giving back to the communities that raised them. For Wyoming Public Radio's "Belonging" series, Sarah and Mackenzie talked about their changing relationship to Wyoming, and how a lack of jobs in their chosen fields - journalism and foreign affairs, respectively - prevents them from moving back.

"I Wouldn't Change A Thing About Wyoming"

Sep 9, 2019
Charles Fournier

Recent Torrington High School graduates Quentin Meyer and Ryan Walson love Wyoming as it is. For our "Belonging" series, the childhood friends sat down to reflect on the agriculture and stories that pull them to stay while acknowledging the career possibilities that may draw their lives outside of the state they hold dear.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

About 10 percent of all adults in Wyoming are veterans. That group has long faced issues with getting access to proper medical treatment. But a new law hopes to overhaul the system and turn the focus back on the veterans. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler spoke with U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie ahead of his upcoming visit to Wyoming about how he has tried to improve the VA over the last year.

Melodie Edwards

It's dumping rain the day Patrick Lawson gives me a tour around Wind River Internet's warehouse. Through an open garage door, you can see giant yellow spools of fiber optics lines. He points out a pile of orange plastic signs.

HEBER CITY — Tucked below the jagged, snowy Wasatch range 20 miles south of Park City, the Heber Valley looks like a miniature Switzerland. Dairy cows graze in bright green pastures and a small farm sells artisan cheeses and milk. 

Melodie Edwards

Gary and Celeste Havener live forty miles outside of Laramie in southeast Wyoming. They spend a lot of their time growing vegetables and riding horses across the prairie.

Kamila Kudelska

If you've never been to a Shopko, it's similar to a small Walmart. You can get groceries, apparel and lawn products all in one place. They're usually found in small towns.

Back in March, Shopko announced it will be closing all its locations, and it's a big deal for small towns. This is a big deal but towns throughout the Big Horn Basin are being proactive about the news.

Tony Webster via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Four communities in the Big Horn Basin joined forces to find solutions when they learned Shopko would be leaving their towns. The retail store's bankruptcy will affect 13 communities in Wyoming.

The backlog in U.S. immigration courts is now over 850,000 cases long. People can wait years for their hearings. And that can be a long time to pay for a lawyer and to make appearances in court. Both of these things can be much harder for immigrants living in rural and mountainous parts of the West.

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