Rural Ohio Valley Counties Lack Sufficient Coronavirus Tests, Report Says

May 20, 2020

A Pikeville, KY coronavirus testing site.
Credit Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Just 15 percent of Kentucky counties meet minimum recommended coronavirus testing levels, according to a new report from health care company Castlight. Sixty-seven percent of West Virginia counties and 31 percent of Ohio counties met the threshold. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that states have the capacity to test 1 percent of the population every seven days. 

Forty-eight states —  all but Kentucky and Colorado —  meet that threshold at the state level. But a county-by-county analysis shows that higher levels of testing in urban counties disguises a lack of adequate testing in rural areas. Nationwide, nearly twice as many counties lacking adequate tests were rural. 

Both nationwide and regionally, urban areas have been hit hardest by the coronavirus but recent outbreaks in rural counties —  largely linked to prisons, meatpacking facilities and nursing homes —  raise concern that for some rural communities, the worst may yet be to come. 

Governors in all three Ohio Valley states are in the process of loosening restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Ohio opened its barbershops, hair salons and restaurants May 15; West Virginia restaurants opened earlier this month; and Kentucky retail businesses and restaurants will be allowed to reopen at reduced capacity this week.