Four years ago, a community group set two economic development goals for Lowndes County, Alabama: a new truck stop and a hospital.
The truck stop now sits off I-65 south of Montgomery. But Lowndes still pays $19,000 a month for a single ambulance to take the sick to emergency rooms a half hour or more away. A hospital remains an unreachable dream in a place with Alabama’s highest concentration of Covid-19 — and one of the worst infection rates in the U.S.
Lowndes County exemplifies the kind of region where the coronavirus continues to hunt: It’s rural, among the nation’s poorest, majority Black, rife with pre-existing illnesses and starved of health-care resources. It's the kind of place where a resurgence of the pandemic is taking root, as new infections rise in at least 21 states.
George Thomas, the county's sole doctor, said Lowndes became a coronavirus hot spot almost overnight. He suspects it was brought from Montgomery, where many of his patients work. “There are no jobs here, or very few,” he said during a break at his federally subsidized clinic in Hayneville that sits across a state highway from the Dollar General.
“It seemed like we sort of trailed behind for a long time,'' Thomas said. "But our numbers are really going up."