Kira Lerner and Indrani Basu are writing to us today about how this happened in the midst of the pandemic. US poll workers risked their health to handle the election:

On November 5, two days after Election Day, an employee of the Election Board Office in Onondaga County, New York, returned home early. I felt exhausted, according to Election Commissioner Dustin Casarney, and assumed long transitions were the culprit.

A week later, she was hospitalized and tested for Covid-19, and learned that she had the virus. By then, unbeknownst to other employees, the virus had spread across the office as employees were working long periods of time counting absentee votes before the certification deadline in New York. Nearly 200 staff and volunteers who counted absentee ballots were sent home on November 13 and directed to take the test. In total, 12 employees tested positive.

“We had nearly everyone in the office the last week before Friday the 13th,” Kazarni said. “Of course it all happened on Friday the 13th.”

Kazarni and the other commissioner closed the office and halted the vote count for the week, telling New York that they would miss the November 28 certification deadline. Kazarni said the crisis is exactly what he had hoped to avoid as they run elections amid a pandemic.

He said, “This is what we feared and it happened.”

For local election officials, the 2020 elections were a struggle. Record numbers of voters have requested absentee ballots due to the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing election officials to adjust to an unprecedented election. Officials had to hire additional staff, find warehouses and other places to store ballot papers, and obtain protective equipment to ensure their employees remained in good health and safety.

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Despite their best efforts to stop the spread of the virus, scores of poll workers and election officials across the country have tested positive for Covid-19, even as it is linked to Election Day in most cases. Is not clear. According to Votebeat’s analysis of local reports, there were cases of Covid-19 among election workers in at least nine counties in five states before Election Day, and at least 24 counties in 14 states reported positive cases among election workers in the following days and weeks. .

These cases represent only those that received media coverage and can be traced back to an electoral process. The actual number of such cases is likely much higher, given the severity of the virus.

Read more from Kira Lerner and Indrani Basu’s report here: Amid the pandemic, US poll workers have risked their health to cope with the election