The coronavirus is spreading beyond Missouri's largest cities, fueled in part by outbreaks in meat packing plants and nursing homes.

ST. LOUIS — The coronavirus is spreading beyond Missouri's largest cities, fueled in part by outbreaks in meat packing plants and nursing homes.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the share of cases coming from rural areas now accounts for about 30% of the state's new cases — a greater portion than ever before. The seven-day average of daily new cases in areas of the state beyond the St. Louis and Kansas City metro regions, has generally been under 50. But since the middle of May, a gradual climb has pushed the pace to about 65 new cases a day. 

"There's been this long-running perception that coronavirus is an urban phenomenon," said Chris Prener, a sociologist at St. Louis University who closely tracks Missouri coronavirus trends. "It's definitely an ongoing issue for rural areas."

The per-capita rate of infections has leapt more than tenfold over the past month in Sullivan County, near the Iowa border, where a giant pork processing plant dominates the local economy, and employees have voiced concern about vulnerability to the virus.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis area — the state's coronavirus epicenter for much of the outbreak — has seen new cases fall as the Kansas City region is getting hit significantly harder than ever.