University of Missouri Extension Wright County Engagement Specialist Janice Weddle and University of Missouri Extension Douglas County Engagement Specialist Dr. Krista Tate conducted surveys in rural areas to better understand and document outcomes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic remote work and school arrangements.  After analyzing data collected from March to July, the results have been compiled.

“In general, rural areas tend to have higher rates of chronic diseases such as untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that people with underlying disease are at increased risk with COVID-19.  There is also typically less access to healthcare in rural areas which can negatively affect health outcomes,” stated Weddle.

Weddle and Tate asked survey participants a series of questions online.  89% of participants live on a farm or in a rural area.

The survey did indicate a positive result due to the COVID-19 remote arrangements for survey participants.  Those surveyed stated they experienced increased time with family. 

“Before the pandemic, 43% of participants said they spent a lot of time with family, and after the pandemic, that number increased to 64%,” Weddle explained.

Screen time during the shutdown increased in rural families.  Only 19% surveyed said they spent a lot of time on electronics before the COVID-19 pandemic.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, that number increased to 39%.

The survey revealed the most challenging aspect of remote work and learning was not having any interaction with peers.

“The educational experience is not solely academic,” stated Tate.  “It is also very important for children to experience the social side of school as well.  Relationships with peers are ways children learn to be positive and productive adults in addition to learning their subjects.”

Weddle and Tate’s survey revealed additional important results, discovering that 62% of respondents indicated they thought overall work and/or school goals were still accomplished through distance and virtual platforms.  This seems positive given that employers and schools had very little preparation time to make the transition to these platforms.

 “As we head into the fall months this is hopeful news,” Weddle said, “now that everyone is more prepared for potentially having to make these types of transitions to these platforms again, it seems these outcomes would only improve.”

For more information about University of Missouri Extension programs at your local office, you can contact Janice Weddle in Wright County at 417-349-4134 or Krista Tate in Douglas County at 417-683-4409.