People who have COVID-19 or are in quarantine after a potential exposure still have the right to vote – and should use it today if they haven’t already, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
Health officials posted new guidance on Sunday, clarifying the voting right, but asking anyone with COVID-19 or a recent exposure to the virus to take extra steps to protect poll workers and their fellow citizens.
‘This includes wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before and after voting,’ the CDC’s guidance says.
Voters should also give poll workers a heads up of their sick or quarantine status once they arrive at their polling place, the officials suggest.
As Americans hit the polls in a highly-anticipated and polarized election, the CDC issued guidance that people sick with COVID-19 or quarantining still have the right to vote in person today
Health officials recommended that anyone who is sick or quarantining notify poll workers – who are required to wear at least masks – upon arrival at their polling places (pictured: a Milwaukee polling official in PPE hands out hand sanitizer to voters on Tuesday)
Monday alone, more the US recorded more than 84,000 new cases of coronavirus.
If you combined all of yesterday’s newly covid-positive voters with Sunday’s 81,493 new cases, you would have more than enough voters to swing the vote in Wyoming (if those patients all lived in the sparsely populated state, which, of course, they do not).
CDC guidance says that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but only become mildly to moderately ill can be around others again 10 days after their symptoms started, at which point they are likely no longer contagious.
About 80 percent of people who catch coronavirus have mild or moderate cases.
So that means that about 705,000 of the 881,920 people who have tested positive in the last 10 days are well enough to move about but are still possibly contagious as of Election Day.
Inside polling places like this one, in Louisville, Kentucky, workers set up long rows of hand sanitizer for voters – but the CDC urges voters not to wipe down voting booths if they are not asked to do so
Some of these people would have had a chance to vote early or by mail-in ballot, as just shy of 100 million Americans had by the start of November 3, according to the US Elections Project.
Nearly 60 million of those had already mailed their ballots back in and more than 32 million were still outstanding as of Sunday, according to the Guardian.
But absentee or mail-in ballots have to be requested early and, in many states, must be received by end-of-day today, Election Day.
No one plans on catching COVID-19, and there’s no telling how many Americans recently diagnosed with coronavirus had not yet cast their ballots when they fell ill.
Exposure to coronavirus is an inevitable risk when voting in-person this year, however, even if no one at your polling place has recently tested positive and knows they have the reason.
Keeping distance is key to reducing the spread of coronavirus. Whether or not anyone in line with you has tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC advises staying six feet apart, like these Wisconsin who lined up before their polling place opened
That’s why this year’s election came with special mail-in provisions, and why polling places have lines that stretch even further than usual this year, to allow for social distancing.
The US Elections Project predicts that voter turnout will surpass 150 million this year, meaning about 50 million people are still expected to hit the polls on Tuesday – including some with COVID-19.
CDC urges all polling places to help ensure voters stay six feet apart, wear masks, use hand sanitizer and complete the voting process as efficiently as possible to reduce their potential exposure while in enclosed, indoor spaces.
The health officials offer these six tips for anyone voting today, with or without COVID-19:
1. Voters have the right to vote regardless of whether they are sick or in quarantine.
- Voters who are sick or in quarantine should take steps to protect poll workers and other voters. This includes wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before and after voting. You should also let poll workers know that you are sick or in quarantine when you arrive at the polling location. Check with local authorities for any additional guidance.
2. Bring your own supplies
- Use this checklist to remember things to bring with you when you go to vote:
- Necessary documentation such as your identification (check with your voting site)
- A mask
- An extra mask
- Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Black ink pen
- Bring prepared items with you (e.g., registration forms, sample ballots)
3. Wear a mask
- You should wear a mask consistently and correctly in public and around people who don’t live with you.
- A few people might not be able to wear a mask because of a disability or condition.
4. Protect yourself when using transport
- Open windows if you can
- Avoid touching things if you can and use hand sanitizer if you do
- Stay 6 feet (about two arm lengths) apart from others if you can
5. Clean your hands often
- Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before entering and after leaving your place of voting
- Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before and after touching items that many others may have touched, such as door handles
- Do not wipe down voting equipment unless you are told to do so
6. Keep your distance from others
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ lengths) from other people as much as you can
- Stay apart even if you are wearing masks