MEXIA, TX — This week the CDC sent out a warning to rural residents that they could be at a greater risk of getting COVID-19 in spite of smaller population sizes.
Wide-open spaces, fresh fruit and fried chicken are all a slice of small-town heaven. But a surge of Coronavirus cases left small communities to cope.
"To everybody that lives in a rural area you are not immune or protected by this virus," said Dr. Deborah Birx of the President's Coronavirus Task Force.
Mexia Resident Dustin Smith is concerned about the accessibility of care, especially for elderly or indigent residents.
"This in on their doorstep. This is on my doorstep and it could be on yours just as easily," he said.
He drove sixty miles for a COVID-19 test for his daughter who was showing symptoms.
"It was the only test I could find with a 48-hour turnaround," he said, citing the local CVS test takes 6 -10 days.
Testing at the local hospital required admission, he was told. But just months ago his other daughter was given a test there with no symptoms.
"All of this hit me hard in the moment. What changed so drastically since June?" he said.
The CDC says we're entering a new phase and rural communities are at risk.
In fact, Central Texas is high on both the CDC's vulnerability index and the susceptibility scale published in the journal or rural health.
"This epidemic is different and it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban," said Dr. Birx.
Higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and obesity as well as access to health care are also factors.
"It is 100% a message of humanity because if we don't go out there and advocate for ourselves we are a much higher risk of exposure than what we know. And we already could be in that boat," said Smith.
His family's results came back Wednesday as negative for COVID-19 but he is positive it will take everyone to fight this together.