Regardless of painstaking efforts to maintain election websites secure, some ballot employees who got here involved with voters on Election Day have examined constructive for the coronavirus, together with greater than two dozen in Missouri and others in New York, Iowa, Indiana and Virginia.
The infections can’t be tied definitively to polling locations. As a result of COVID-19 is spreading quickly within the U.S., there isn’t any technique to decide but whether or not in-person voting on Election Day contributed to the surge, public well being specialists stated.
Nonetheless, the infections amongst ballot employees increase issues due to how many individuals handed by way of voting websites, which carried out social-distancing guidelines, erected protecting limitations and stocked sanitizer, masks, gloves and different security gear. In most locations, ballot employees had been required to put on masks.
The instances emerged whereas election employees continued counting hundreds of ballots. As a hand tally of the presidential race started in Georgia, the state’s prime election official positioned himself beneath quarantine after his spouse examined constructive for the coronavirus.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is in a county thought of a nationwide virus sizzling spot, an election official who labored an early voting website later examined constructive.
“I’m truly shocked that we don’t have extra instances,” stated Linn County Election Commissioner Joel Miller, who famous that a number of county employees in his constructing examined constructive within the final week. “It truly appears form of far-fetched that we didn’t have extra, however they won’t be reporting it to us.”
Election employees in Jackson County, Missouri, which incorporates Kansas Metropolis, appear to be the toughest hit thus far, with about 28 staffers testing constructive previously couple of weeks.
Tammy Brown, head of the Jackson County Election Board, stated her staffers urged voters who felt unwell to keep away from coming inside, although she suspects not everybody listened. The board handled practically 200,000 voters, together with greater than 60,000 who forged early ballots.
“We, as election officers, all knew we had been in danger,” Brown stated. “I don’t suppose this was surprising to any of us.”
With transmission charges excessive in Missouri, well being officers will not be able to hyperlink the instances to polling locations. They are saying the employees may have turn out to be contaminated anyplace.
The county provided drive-thru voting for folks with COVID-19 or who had been quarantining due to contact with somebody who was contaminated. When part-time employees grew to become unwell, full-time election board employees labored the drive-thru line.
It is tough to hint instances again to polling locations as a result of the virus manifests in several methods, and a few folks by no means get signs. Infections are also spiking as folks collect with prolonged household or buddies and return to extra crowded public settings.
The U.S. on Sunday surpassed 11 million confirmed COVID-19 instances, with the latest million coming in lower than every week, in keeping with Johns Hopkins College. The virus has now killed greater than 246,000 folks in the US, and the illness is spreading quicker throughout the nation than at any time for the reason that pandemic began.
Whereas that unfold will increase the chance ballot employees could have contracted the illness elsewhere, there have been calls for his or her co-workers to quarantine and voters to be examined as a precaution.
In New York, greater than 1,600 individuals who voted at a website within the Hudson Valley on Election Day have been suggested to get examined after a ballot employee examined constructive. Officers stated colleagues who had sustained contact with the employee will likely be examined, however they described the danger to voters as minimal as a result of the particular person wore a masks, stored distance and adopted different security measures.
Equally, officers in Virginia’s Carroll County stated two ballot employees in several precincts have examined constructive. A well being official stated that as a result of each had been of their infectious intervals on Election Day, testing has been provided to employees and voters.
Virginia officers statewide had masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer and different provides for polling locations, they usually skilled folks in security practices, stated Jessica Bowman, deputy commissioner of the Virginia Division of Elections.
It could possibly be a number of weeks earlier than the impact of in-person voting nationwide is thought. Polling locations that used security measures may have tremendously minimized transmission charges, maybe making them much less dangerous than going to a restaurant with buddies, stated M. Kumi Smith, an assistant professor with the epidemiology division on the College of Minnesota.
“A brilliant-spreader occasion is quite a bit simpler to establish while you’re nonetheless at an early stage of an epidemic or when there’s a extremely discrete occasion that’s actually in contrast to the rest that anybody else is doing,” she stated. “However given the actual vary of actions which are happening right here, I might most likely be a bit of bit extra skeptical of somebody who declares that that is definitively a super-spreading occasion.”
No main studies of security lapses or dangerous voting circumstances have emerged.
States had various guidelines for masks. However even in locations with mandates, officers balked at requiring face coverings whereas voting. As a substitute, they opted for a powerful advice or provided choices reminiscent of curbside voting or cubicles away from others.
In Indiana, a ballot employee who later examined constructive didn’t present signs, practiced social distancing and “wore a masks always” on Election Day, stated Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps. As a precaution, seven colleagues are quarantining for 2 weeks.
He stated election officers spent plenty of money and time making polling locations as secure as doable. Ballot employees wore masks, and machines, tables and doorknobs had been continuously sanitized.
“We labored actually onerous to ensure that each polling location had protocols in place,” Phelps stated.
This story has been corrected to indicate that Jackson County consists of Kansas Metropolis, not simply the Kansas Metropolis suburbs.
Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. Related Press writers Michelle R. Smith in Windfall, Rhode Island; Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Virginia; Ryan J. Foley in Iowa Metropolis, Iowa; Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; and Casey Smith in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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