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Distance and low density can offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, but rural areas also have their own unique challenges when it comes to an infectious disease like the coronavirus.

American Heart Association News: Far From Immune, Rural Areas Face Unique COVID-19 Challenges

THURSDAY, April 30, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Since late last year, COVID-19 has been overwhelming health care facilities in urban areas around the world, causing more than 12,200 deaths so far in New York City alone.

As has become increasingly clear, however, rural areas are not immune.

During the past month, hundreds of pork plant workers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have tested positive for COVID-19 – one of many outbreaks in meat processing facilities throughout the country. And the Navajo Nation reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, has more than 1,600 cases.

While distance and low density offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases, rural areas also have their own unique vulnerabilities.

"We see higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, obesity and less physical activity in rural areas," said Dr. Regina Benjamin, the 18th U.S. surgeon general under President Barack Obama. She founded a health clinic in rural Alabama and continues to work there today.

"All of those things contribute to overall health in rural communities," she said, and serious underlying health conditions may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates for heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke – the five leading causes of death in the United States – are higher in rural areas than in urban ones.

Read the full American Heart Association story.

In our latest HealthDay Now interview, Dr. Anton Porsteinsson, a principal investigator for the Biogen aducanumab trial, and Dr. Ken Lin, a primary care physician, discuss the controversial new Alzheimer's drug and whether it will provide any benefit to patients, despite its highly uncertain efficacy and steep cost.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

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In our latest HealthDay Now, Mabel Jong spoke with Dr. Lori Pierce, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a cancer radiation specialist at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Pierce shared important takeaways from the recently concluded 2021 ASCO annual meeting and discussed why equity was the chosen theme this year.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

In our latest HealthDay Now, Dr. Hina Talib, a pediatrician and adolescent health specialist at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, debunks myths and common concerns parents may have about giving their children Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, which was recently approved for use in children and teens ages 12 and up.

HealthDay Now's Mabel Jong also speaks with Alan Santee, a high school freshman from Massachusetts, about why he didn't hesitate to get vaccinated, and Ethan Lindenberger, a 20-year-old vaccine advocate from Ohio, about his experience having a mom who is anti-vaccine and how kids and parents can approach these conversations.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now to hear about the state of mental health and why many people fear returning to their social and work lives.

HealthDay's Mabel Jong spoke to Dr. Vivian Pender, president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Sherry Amatenstein, a social worker and therapist who has been dealing with these anxieties herself.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now for a preview of the American College of Physicians Annual Meeting 2021, covering topics like the alarming shortage of primary care physicians, bringing basic health delivery needs to rural residents, and why the ACP will focus on privacy concerns at its conference.

HealthDay Now's Mabel Jong speaks with Dr. Jacqueline Fincher, president of the American College of Physicians and an internist in a rural community in Georgia.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we cover the latest on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine investigation. An independent advisory panel to the CDC is waiting on additional information before making recommendations on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports about rare blood clots.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Lynn Bahta, a member of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and a clinical expert for vaccines at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we recap the highlights of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2021.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Antoni Ribas, former president of the American Association for Cancer Research and professor of medicine at UCLA, and Anna Plym, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we dive into the latest details on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Mary Beth Son, Program Director of Boston Children's Hospital's Rheumatology Program, and Brian Padla, father of James Padla, who has MIS-C.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.


Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we debunk myths about the COVID-19 vaccines and talk about what the new CDC guidelines for vaccinated people mean.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and one of the physicians on the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, and Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, Vice Chair of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.