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AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University is working to find out the impact this pandemic is having on rural parts of our state in hopes they can help prevent the negative side effects that could be detrimental to small-town Iowa.

They will soon be sending out surveys to residents of 70 rural towns in the state thanks to a grant they recently received from the National Science Foundation. The survey is supposed to help document the economic health and emotional impacts of COVID-19 in these small towns.

“The reason understanding the impacts of COVID-19 in small towns is important is because their healthcare systems tend to be more vulnerable, their economies are, you know, most real jobs you can’t work at home or telecommute, you’d have to show up on the job, and then certain communities in Iowa, typically ones that have large meatpacking facilities, are at a higher risk for COVID-19,” David Peters, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University said.

Peters said oftentimes, COVID-19 related or not, rural towns are understudied, but now they can share what they find to federal and state policymakers, for them to craft specific rule policies to address the recovery from COVID-19 in rural communities. 

“It’s hit the big cities and the population centers first and it will eventually spread to rural communities,” Peters said. “So we actually have an opportunity in rural Iowa, which I hope that we’re able to do, is if we can identify what the risks are and identify the best mitigation strategies, hopefully we can get ahead of the curve and actually kind of prevent really horrible impacts of COVID-19 happening in small towns.”

Questions will be on a wide range of topics from emotional health, work environments, and home life.

“We’ve talked a lot about broadband in rural areas, it’s been sort of an academic discussion, and you talk to some people and they say ‘well why shouldn’t we pay to connect broadband up to connect these small towns have the broadband so they can stream their videos and shop on Amazon easier.’ Well, COVID-19 has made us realize that you can’t have Telehealth, or Tele-education without good broadband connections and so now there’s real consequences,” Peters said.

The surveys are supposed to be sent out by the end of August. Peters said they are working with different community groups to make sure the surveys are provided in multiple languages and reach all areas of town to get a good representation.

The communities selected for the survey are:

Afton, Albia, Anita, Atkins, Audubon, Bancroft, Bedford, Bloomfield, Buffalo Center, Calmar, Center Point, Chariton, Cherokee, Clarence, Clarinda, Colo, Columbus Junction, Corning, Correctionville, Denison, Donnellson, Eagle Grove, Elma, Epworth, Estherville, Fruitland, Garnavillo, George, Gilbertville, Glidden, Gowrie, Graettinger, Hamburg, Hartford, Hartley, Hills, Hospers, Humboldt, Jefferson, Lake Park, Lamoni, Le Claire, Le Mars, Madrid, Mapleton, Mediapolis, Missouri Valley, Monroe, Montezuma, Mount Ayr, Murray, Nashua, Nora Springs, Northwood, Oakland, Pleasantville, Pocahontas, Sac City, Sheffield, Sibley, St. Ansgar, Traer, Ventura, Villisca, Waukon, Waverly, Webster City, Williamsburg, Winfield and Woodward.