| COVID-19 Rural Sizzlers
County Rates Per 100,000 Population
Ranked on Confirmed Cases & Deaths
||Deaf Smith, Tx
||Castro , Tx
||Roberts , Tx
||Oldham , Tx
May 20, 2020
Virus Not Getting the Hell Outta Dodge or Amarillo
with Panhandle at New Rural Epicenter South Base
Texas Reopening Phase Two
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
A swath of the Great Plains that spreads for 300 miles from Hereford to Dodge City is being torched by the coronavirus with rates of infections that are higher than New York City has experienced during the worst pandemic in more than a century.
Fueled by outbreaks at meat packing plants in a stretch of rural America that produced iconic real-life and fictional characters from Charles Goodnight to Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty, the region that stretches from the Texas Panhandle to the southwestern corner of Kansas has been more ablaze with COVID-19 more in the past month than any other parts of the country.
The virus that's killed more than 1,400 people in Texas hasn't been anywhere near as lethal in the new rural American epicenter as it had been when it caught the northeast coast off guard in February and March and turned the Big Apple into a horror show.
But more than 80 people in 18 counties in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and Kansas including 57 in 16 counties that are sparsely populated in the Lone Star State's northern tip with the exception of Potter and Randall where the Amarillo area is the sizzling region's southern anchor.
While every life is a gift, one death can have a devastating effect on the entire community in a small town where most everyone will have known the neighbor who failed to survive a disease that has been misportrayed at the outset as a big city phenomenon. The relatively low number of coronavirus fatalities in the tri-state area where the coronavirus is raging is unusual nonetheless in light of the sky-high rates of infections that have been confirmed.
A handful of counties that link the New Mexico border to Garden City in Kansas where the Truman Capote classic In Cold Blood was set have recorded more COVID-19 injections per capita than those where the majority of NYC residents are packed together in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.
Moore County has been slammed harder by the virus than any other Texas location with an infection rate that's 50 percent higher than Potter has had as a jurisdiction that's had four times as many confirmed cases per capita than any of the other counties in the state with populations over 100,000.
But the surge has been more than twice as intense in Kansas locations Ford County where Dodge City is the largest city and the most famous outpost of the Old West in America where Texas cattle ranchers drove their herds in the mid-1800s as the closest major railroad connection.
Ford County has reported almost 42 coronavirus cases for every 1,000 as an entity with a population of less than 35,000. More than two-thirds of Ford's residents live in the county city of Dodge City where the saloon, brothels and gambling emporiums gave way long ago to agriculture. The National Beef Packing Company's processing plant in Ford County and the Seaboard Farms sausage factory in Guymon, Oklahoma have been the main sources for the outbreaks in those particular places like beef, chicken and pork slaughterhouse facilities across Texas
Guymon is the seat of Texas County in the thin slice of western Oklahoma north of the Panhandle here where the number of confirmed coronavirus infections per capita has been in the same league with Ford, Finney and Seward counties in Kansas. Liberal is the Seward County seat on the north side of the state line that separates Kansas from Oklahoma.
The relatively less alarming rates in the Texas Panhandle appear to be a function of a recent escalation in COVID-19 testing in a part of the state that had a terrible record in that critical department.
While Texas and Oklahoma ranked 40th and 28th in the nation respectively in coronavirus tests on a per capita basis, Kansas is a dismal 46th with some of its most distressing rates in the lower left pocket of the state the region with the Amarillo area as the base.
The rates of infection in the Kansas counties at the crown of the coronavirus river that flows on the maps into Texas have been about 36 times higher than they've been in the state's larger cities like Wichita and Topeka are based. Texas County in the Oklahoma Panhandle has had a rate of confirmed virus cases that's 35 higher than those recorded up to now in the counties where Oklahoma City and Tulsa are located.
The disparities haven't been as high in Texas where Potter County has had almost nine times more conronavirus cases confirmed per capita than the Harris County of seat of Houston - the nation's fourth larger city.
The Texas tally of official coronavirus injections that have been reported in the past three months surpassed the 51,000 on Wednesday when 1,141 new cases were confirmed and reported by the Department of State Health Services.
The coronavirus rate has been 10 times higher in Potter County than it's been statewide. Moore County has recorded 15 times more virus infections that the state as a whole.
The hot spot won't be expected to see any significant declines in the spread anytime soon as Governor Greg Abbott reopens Texas with Potter, Randall, Deaf Smith and Moore counties having to wait for a week before they enter phase two like the rest of the state started doing on Monday.