ISU, University of Iowa studying COVID-19 response in rural Iowa

AMES, Iowa -- Researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa want to know how rural communities are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They're especially interested in knowing how different those responses are than in larger, urban areas.

"The health response, dealing with the health effects, as well as the economic effects should also be different than in large cities. We hope our survey will really identify what are the key needs in rural Iowa" says ISU Sociology Professor David Peters.

He says they want to survey more than 12,000 Iowans from around 70 small towns on topics like the availability of health care, the reliability of high-speed internet, to economic stress placed on a community by the pandemic.

Peters says the survey will also examine economic effects of the pandemic.

“Rent and mortgage assistance in urban areas is important because of the high cost of living,” he says. “But that may not be as important in rural areas. We’re hoping to shed some light on what assistance programs will benefit rural areas the most.”

Peters says researchers are especially interested in three towns--Denison, Columbus Junction and Eagle Grove--all homes to meat processing plants.

"There's a real possibility that, in those communities, workers could overwhelm the local healthcare system. If they get sick--seriously ill--that might have economic consequences for their families and the community at-large" he says.

Peters says they're trying to get data as quickly as possible in the next two to three months and get that information to policymakers at all levels of government so they can make decisions to target programs to the specific needs of rural people.

Researchers got a $200,000 rapid response grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the survey and document the health, socioeconomic and emotional impacts of COVID-19 in small Iowa towns.

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