Voting in person comes with a fairly low coronavirus risk, experts say. Here’s how to stay safe at the polls.

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During Wisconsin’s primary election in early April, local officials, public-health experts, and poll workers all worried that in-person voting could spark a spike in coronavirus cases. About 1.55 million Wisconsinites voted in that election, 400,000 of whom voted in person. 

But by mid-April, no spike had come, according to a CDC report published in July. That’s likely because polling places instituted safety precautions like mask requirements and social distancing. Photos and local news reports showed most voters wearing masks and standing at least 6 feet apart in line.

For people who plan to vote in person on November 3, the risk of contracting coronavirus will be similarly low, according to Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at the University of Arizona.

“I actually equate it with takeout,” Popescu, a leading expert on coronavirus transmission, told Business Insider. “There are so many safety protocols being put into place for safe voting that it is really a lower-risk activity.” 

That’s because most polling places make people wear masks and line up outside, where it’s harder for the virus to spread from person to person. The process of voting in a booth takes just a few minutes, and most polling stations plan to sanitize all equipment indoors regularly.

Still, Popescu offered several tips for lowering your risk when voting in person, including bringing hand sanitizer and going when your polling place is less crowded. 

Voting is not too risky

At least 75% of American voters will be eligible to mail in their ballots this election, but only 39% currently plan to do so, according to the Pew Research Center. About 54% said they will vote in person, either early or on November 3. 

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With proper precautions, those in-person voters shouldn’t face much coronavirus risk, according to Popescu. 

“Most polling stations are requiring masks, you’re able to distance, and your time inside is very short,” she said. 

Any interaction with a poll worker will probably only last a minute or two — much like paying a cashier for a takeout meal — which makes viral transmission unlikely. 

Polling places are taking extra precautions

Most county government websites list the safety precautions they’re planning or are already taking to make in-person voting safe.

“You can definitely read up on what your city or municipality is doing,” Popescu said.

For instance, in Dekalb County, Georgia, poll workers will wear masks and face shields, and voting equipment will be cleaned at least once an hour. The county is “strongly encouraging” voters to wear masks and socially distance while waiting in line. In Maricopa County, Arizona, meanwhile, all polling locations are expected to provide voters with gloves and masks, and to disinfect pens after each use.

Ideally, a polling place should mandate mask-wearing and social distancing, and offer hand sanitizer and masks, Popescu said. 

Some polling stations are even giving people a way to vote from their cars, which “is an awesome option,” Popescu added.

How to stay safe when voting in person 

Popescu said wearing a mask “is really the biggest thing” you can to to protect yourself, along with social distancing.

Although many …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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