Early voting is already generating long, long queues in many states, and after the November election, just 11 days later, many states and cities have imposed security measures to protect voters and respondents from exposure to coronavirus.
But polling stations still have the potential to become “mass gathering events,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in a statement Friday, adding that measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 could be improved. .
The CDC based its latest research advice on the experience of 522 interviewers in Delaware̵
The guidelines issued by the agency in June recommend various ways to minimize crowds at polling stations, including absentee voting and extended voting times.
To reduce the transmission of diseases, the CDC also recommended that physical barriers be placed between voting machines; moving the machines away from each other; indicating 6-foot distances with signs or floor markings for those waiting in line to vote; marking of separate entrances and exits; the use of protective equipment – masks, safety masks, gloves and gowns – for interviewers helping sick voters; and allowing sick people to vote aside.
“Ensuring that sick voters can vote while maintaining the poll of workers and voters will be essential to minimize transmission without restricting voting rights,” the report said.
But in Alabama, where restricted voting was allowed, the state prosecutor ordered it suspended, and the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the ban.
A new survey of Delaware respondents did not provide information on whether Covid cases were related to polling stations. The questions only include workers’ observations of the conditions and practices of 99 polling stations in the country.
A Delaware study found that most workers and voters wear masks, but do not always use them properly to cover both the mouth and nose. Voters were less careful than respondents. About 73 percent of respondents say they have very rarely or never seen other sociologists wear masks in the wrong way. But only 54 percent of workers surveyed say they have rarely or never seen careless masks used by voters.
Noting that “a significant proportion of respondents have seen misuse of masks by voters, the report said,” additional messages on the proper use of masks, including polling stations, may be needed to enhance the effectiveness of masks during in the forthcoming elections. “
The CDC suggested that providing masks to voters “could support the adoption of personal prevention practices”.
Respondents are also more likely than voters to use hand sanitizer.
Nineteen of the 522 workers in the study had contact with a sick voter, with or without a known Covid diagnosis, the report said. Fifteen of the 19 said they wore masks during that contact, but none wore the other protective equipment recommended by the CDC for such meetings: a face shield, a dress, gloves. The study suggests that workers had “limited training” in using the facilities.
Respondents generally face a number of risks: Many are older and have health problems that make them particularly vulnerable to serious illness if contracted with Covid. And they come into close contact with many people on election days, often closer than the 6-foot “social distance” recommended to minimize virus transmission.
Ongoing efforts to recruit younger pollsters may reduce the proportion of workers at risk of severe Covid cases, the report said.
Meanwhile, the CDC has proposed a list of ways to help minimize risk to voters: go in outside of peak hours, such as midnight; watch the polling line from your car and join when the line is short; fill in all the necessary registration forms ahead of time and review the sample ballot at home to reduce the time spent at the polling station; and pick up your own pen with black ink or a pen to use on touch screen voting machines.