Two people wearing masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus stand outside the Bridgton Books in Maine on November 13, 2020. The sign reads: “Mandatory use of masks. Be respectful ”. (AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty)

Despite careful efforts to keep polling centers safe in the United States, some polling officers who came into contact with voters on polling day have tested positive for the coronavirus, including more than two dozen cases in Missouri, New York, Iowa, Indiana and Virginia.

Infections cannot be definitively linked to polling stations. Since COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the country, there is no way to yet determine whether in-person voting contributed to the increase, public health experts have said.

Still, infections among poll officials are cause for concern due to the number of people passing the ballot boxes, implementing social distancing rules, erecting protective barriers, and collecting disinfectants, masks, gloves and others. protective equipment. In most places, polling officers were required to wear face masks.

The cases emerged as election officials continued to count thousands of ballots. As the hand count began in Georgia’s presidential race, the state’s top election official went into self-isolation after his wife was diagnosed with coronavirus.

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is in one of the counties considered to be a high infection area, an election official who worked at an early voting center then tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’m actually surprised we don’t have more cases,” Linn County Election Commissioner Joel Miller said, noting that several county employees in his apartment building had been diagnosed last week. “In fact, it seems incredible to me that we don’t have more, but maybe they don’t report them to us.”

Investigators in Jackson County, Missouri appear to be the hardest hit to date, with some 28 members sick with COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

Tammy Brown, director of the Jackson County Election Council, said her staff urged voters who felt bad to avoid entering the facility, even though she suspects not everyone was listening to her. The council processed some 200,000 voters, including more than 60,000 who voted early.

“As election officials, we all knew we were in danger,” Brown said. “I don’t think this is surprising to any of us.”

It is difficult to locate cases all the way to the polling stations because the virus manifests itself in different ways and some people never show symptoms. Infections also increase as people get together with family or friends and return to more crowded public places.

The United States surpassed 11 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, with more than one million in less than a week, according to Johns Hopkins University. The virus has claimed the lives of more than 246,000 people in the United States, and the disease is spreading faster in the country than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

While this spread increases the likelihood that polling officers have contracted the coronavirus elsewhere, calls have been made for their colleagues to self-quarantine and voters to be tested as a precaution.

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Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York.

Associated Press reporters Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island; Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Virginia; Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa; Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; and Casey Smith in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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