To reach North Sunflower Medical Center from any direction, travelers must first drive through miles of open fields filled with cotton, corn, and soy. Eventually, they’ll land in the center of Ruleville, Mississippi, whose population of 2,800 is smaller than the number of monthly visitors the clinic sees ordinarily. Some patients travel from as far as 45 miles away to receive care here.
But the past couple months have not been ordinary. Since March, when the World Health Organization labeled COVID-19 a pandemic, almost 50 percent of North Sunflower Medical Center’s patients have stopped showing up.
This pattern is playing out across the country at both rural and urban hospitals: Fearful of the pandemic, non-coronavirus patients are staying home, despite suffering conditions