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Election Day link unclear after poll workers contract virus

Earlier than the election, officers outfitted polling locations with protecting gear, sanitizing provides and social distancing markers.

Regardless of painstaking efforts to maintain election websites secure, some ballot employees who got here involved with voters on Election Day have examined optimistic 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 method 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 considerations due to how many individuals handed by way of voting websites, which applied social-distancing guidelines, erected protecting boundaries and stocked sanitizer, masks, gloves and different security gear. In most locations, ballot employees had been required to put on masks.

The circumstances emerged whereas election employees continued counting 1000’s of ballots. As a hand tally of the presidential race started in Georgia, the state’s prime election official positioned himself underneath quarantine after his spouse examined optimistic for the coronavirus.

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is in a county thought of a nationwide virus scorching spot, an election official who labored an early voting website later examined optimistic.

“I’m really shocked that we don’t have extra circumstances,” stated Linn County Election Commissioner Joel Miller, who famous that a number of county employees in his constructing examined optimistic within the final week. “It really 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 optimistic previously couple of weeks.

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Tammy Brown, head of the Jackson County Election Board, stated her staffers urged voters who felt in poor health 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 solid early ballots.

“We, as election officers, all knew we had been in danger,” Brown stated. “I don’t suppose this was stunning to any of us.”

With transmission charges excessive in Missouri, well being officers usually are not able to hyperlink the circumstances to polling locations. They are saying the employees may have grow to be contaminated anyplace.

The county supplied drive-thru voting for individuals with COVID-19 or who had been quarantining due to contact with somebody who was contaminated. When part-time employees grew to become in poor health, full-time election board workers labored the drive-thru line.

It is troublesome to hint circumstances again to polling locations as a result of the virus manifests in numerous methods, and a few individuals by no means get signs. Infections are also spiking as individuals collect with prolonged household or pals and return to extra crowded public settings.

The U.S. on Sunday surpassed 11 million confirmed COVID-19 circumstances, with the newest million coming in lower than per week, based on Johns Hopkins College. The virus has now killed greater than 246,000 individuals in the US, and the illness is spreading sooner throughout the nation than at any time because the pandemic began.

Whereas that unfold will increase the probability ballot employees might 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 optimistic. Officers stated colleagues who had sustained contact with the employee can 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 numerous precincts have examined optimistic. A well being official stated that as a result of each had been of their infectious intervals on Election Day, testing has been supplied to employees and voters.

Virginia officers statewide had masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer and different provides for polling locations, they usually educated individuals in security practices, stated Jessica Bowman, deputy commissioner of the Virginia Division of Elections.

It may very well be a number of weeks earlier than the impact of in-person voting nationwide is thought. Polling locations that used security measures may have significantly minimized transmission charges, maybe making them much less dangerous than going to a restaurant with pals, stated M. Kumi Smith, an assistant professor with the epidemiology division on the College of Minnesota.

“An excellent-spreader occasion is loads simpler to determine whenever you’re nonetheless at an early stage of an epidemic or when there’s a very discrete occasion that’s actually in contrast to the rest that anybody else is doing,” she stated. “However given the true vary of actions which might be happening right here, I’d most likely be somewhat bit extra skeptical of somebody who declares that that is definitively a super-spreading occasion.”

No main stories of security lapses or dangerous voting situations have emerged.

States had various guidelines for masks. However even in locations with mandates, officers balked at requiring face coverings whereas voting. As an alternative, they opted for a powerful suggestion or supplied choices comparable to curbside voting or cubicles away from others.

In Indiana, a ballot employee who later examined optimistic 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 lots of money and time making polling locations as secure as attainable. Ballot employees wore masks, and machines, tables and doorknobs had been continuously sanitized.

“We labored actually laborious to guarantee that each polling location had protocols in place,” Phelps stated.

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.

Related Press protection of voting rights receives assist partially from Carnegie Company of New York. The AP is solely answerable for this content material.

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