AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — A research study conducted by epidemiologists from the Medical College of Georgia shows that COVID-19 is impacting certain races at a higher rate in rural areas than other counties in the state.

“What we saw from our first research report; rural parts of Georgia and communities with a high proportion of African Americans had the highest instance and mortality rates,” said Dr. Justin X. Moore.

There are 159 counties in Georgia, 120 are comprised of rural areas. These counties have been indentified as hotspots for COVID-19. Dr. Justin Moore says he and his colleagues discovered counties that have a population of 50% African Americans had a 30% increase to be infected by the virus. Those counties also and have a 70% increase to die from the virus.

“That’s saying, comparing counties with a lot more African Americans, more than 50% live there, compared to counties that have less than that, had a higher mortality rate,” explained Dr. Moore. “They are more likely to die in those

Dr. Moore says these counties are no stranger to diseases like stroke, diabetes and sepsis.

“When you talk about diseases and morbidity, these are communities that have been affected disproportionately,” said Dr. Moore. “If we get a new pandemic, all that means is the same people will hurt at the same rate.”

The study also shows Rural Georgia counties have a lower number of intensive care beds, primary care physicians, and the lack of other resources. He says a combination of those factors and lower conditions where people live, learn and work can overwhelm available health services.

“If you don’t have insurance, what is your likelihood of going to a doctor?” asked Dr. Moore. “These are people who more likely to wait and get some over the counter medication, hoping it will go away.”

The MCG epidemiologist and his team are currently doing a-data review to see if the clear disparities they saw early in the spread continue to hold.