As COVID Surges, It is Reaching the Nation’s Last Untouched Areas
No longer are the unchartered landscapes safe
Few places would seem better able to ride out an infectious-disease pandemic than Petroleum County, Mont., whose 500 people spread over 1,656 square miles, much of it public lands and cattle ranches. For most of this year, it did just that, becoming the last county in the state and one of the final few in the nation to have logged no cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Then came October. Three residents tested positive, knocking Petroleum off zero-case lists, forcing the county’s lone school to close for a week and proving, as Sheriff Bill Cassell put it, that “eventually we were going to get it,” and that the virus “ain’t gone yet.”
That is a lesson people in many other wide-open places have been learning as the coronavirus surges anew. Months after it raced in successive waves along the nation’s coasts and through the Sun Belt, it is reaching deep into its final frontier — the most sparsely populated states and counties, where distance from others has long been part of the appeal and this year had appeared to be a buffer against a deadly communicable disease.
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