Voting during a pandemic presents possible COVID-19 transmission risks

Voting during a pandemic, possible transmission risks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Election Day in a pandemic. Nearly 62,000 people cast their ballot in DeSoto County Tuesday.

The large number created long lines where social distancing became tough.

“Yeah I think that’s a risk for transmission,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld Infectious Disease Specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Threlkeld says doctors will be looking at any COVID-19 trends following Election Day just like they’ve been following other events where large groups of people gather.

“There’s no question I think it’s a great opportunity for it to spread," said Threlkeld. "Whether it’s a good thing like in-person elections or something like a large party that isn’t necessary.”

Shelby County saw long lines in the weeks leading up to Election Day as more than 300,000 people voted early.

But in Mississippi, most voters didn’t get the chance to early vote which led to hundreds of thousands of people waiting in lines on Election Day.

“With everything at stake, it was important the vote got cast,” said Mississippi voter John Hughes.

Long lines of voters in DeSoto County

Just over 61,900 people voted in DeSoto County where an ordinance mandates masks inside but not outside.

And with hundreds of people in line social distancing became difficult. Some of the lines may have been caused by fewer voting machines to create more space between voters.

At this site in Olive Branch voters waited 2-3 hours and said there were about five voting machines inside.

Similar safety protocols were made at voting locations throughout the Mid-South.

“The place where I voted did a nice job of giving you a pen you kept then you didn’t touch really anything along the way,” said Threlkeld.

Even with Election Day behind us, health officials say we continue to be in a crucial time in the pandemic as we head into the holiday and flu season.

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