At Least Seven in Wisconsin Contract Coronavirus During Voting

At Least Seven in Wisconsin Contract Coronavirus During Voting

Milwaukee health officials said they had identified at least seven people who contracted the coronavirus from participating in Election Day on April 7, which was held despite a stay-at-home order issued throughout the state.

The seven people were the first identified by Milwaukee officials, who contend that the number may be higher as they are still conducting testing. Other cities have not reported any cases tied to voting yet.

The officials, in a statement issued Tuesday, did not say how they traced the new coronavirus cases to in-person voting. Six of the cases they identified were Milwaukee voters; the seventh was a poll worker.

Polling places opened across Wisconsin after the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature refused to take action to postpone the election or expand vote by mail. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it would also be studying any voters or election workers who contracted the virus from voting. They have not reported any cases yet.

“Please note that we only have 30 percent of the data back from new cases as of 4/7 and on,” said Jeanette Kowalik, the Milwaukee health commissioner, in the statement. “We hope to have these fields complete by Friday and will provide a more complete report then.”

Dr. Kowalik said that the data was still incomplete because some patients may have declined to provide complete information, were delayed in presenting symptoms, or experienced delays in testing and processing. She added that they were looking at any new cases that began after April 7 as the incubation period is 14 days, which ends April 21.

Before the election, thousands of poll workers, many of whom are older and are considered high risk for the coronavirus, said they would not be able to work during the in-person election, resulting in a severely depleted election staff in many parts of the state.

In Milwaukee, that meant its 180 polling locations were drastically reduced to just five. Voters across the city cited waits of well over two hours throughout the day.

The direct connection of contracting coronavirus from in-person voting in Wisconsin could further increase calls across the country for an expansion of vote by mail and absentee voting for the November elections.

There are multiple bills currently in the U.S. Senate seeking billions of dollars to vastly expand vote by mail before the November election. Democrats in Congress are also pushing to get more funding for the elections into the next stimulus plan.

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