Seven Voters in Wisconsin May Have Contracted Cornonavirus
(Bloomberg) -- Wisconsin health officials have identified seven people who may have contracted coronavirus after voting in the state’s elections earlier this month.
The state Department of Health Services added “election activity” to its list of COVID-19 virus investigation questions in its disease registry. The database “attempts to capture anyone that may have voted in person or worked at a polling place” on April 7, according to Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee’s commissioner of health.
Officials said they expect the number of those infected to rise after reviewing cases that began after April 7 once the incubation period of two weeks ends on Wednesday. The state has only 30% of data about new cases from Election Day on.
“While we continue to monitor cases of COVID-19 linked to election activity, we know that gatherings such as this are detrimental to the efforts to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Ben Watson, the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management medical director.
Wisconsin held an in-person election over the opposition of Governor Tony Evers, who tried to both postpone the vote and switch to vote-by-mail. But those efforts were stymied by Republicans in the state legislature and rulings from the conservative majorities on the state and U.S. Supreme Courts.
Evers declared a state of emergency in Wisconsin on March 12 as coronavirus hit the state. A day ahead of the vote, Wisconsin had 2,440 cases of COVID-19 and 84 deaths. As of Tuesday, 230 people have died and nearly 4,500 have tested positive.
Still, people defied a stay-at-home order to vote in the election, when both state officials and the Democratic nomination candidates were on the ballot. Voters in some areas waited in long lines as concern about the virus caused a shortage of poll workers and the number of polling stations was sharply reduced in some areas. In Milwaukee, only five of more than 180 polling places were open.
At least a dozen states have delayed their primaries or switched to all mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wisconsin election has led to demands from congressional Democrats for national legislation to address the pandemic’s effects on voting in the 2020 election year. President Donald Trump has said he opposes mail-in voting, claiming it increases the possibility of fraud.
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who was on the ballot in Wisconsin and dropped out of the race a day after the vote said “people should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote.”
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, won the state’s primary. He had called for the election to be conducted only with mail-in ballots because of the virus, and said on Twitter that Wisconsinites had shown “courage and commitment” by coming out to vote. “But it should never have come to that,” he added. “No one should ever have to choose between their health and our democracy.”
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