In Missouri’s second largest county, there was an outbreak of coronavirus among the electoral board after more than two dozen workers tested positive for the disease in cases amid a nationwide spike.
At least 28 Jackson County electoral board workers tested positive for COVID-19, Tammy Brown, the electoral board’s director, told the Associated Press on Tuesday. Eight full-time and 20 part-time employees have received positive diagnoses in the past two and a half weeks.
Most of them are doing well and recovering at home, but two of the part-time workers are in hospital, one in intensive care, Brown told the AP. She believes they have most likely been infected by voters.
Jackson County is the second largest county in Missouri after St. Louis County. Jackson is the home of Kansas City, but the city has its own electoral committee, according to the AP. Nevertheless, the board of directors of Jackson County would have handled the votes of almost 200,000 residents. Of those, more than 60,000 people chose to vote in absentia or by postal vote, Brown said.
However, many of these people would have gone through the committee’s main office or the absentee voting office in the days leading up to the November 3 election to pick up or drop off their ballot.
“We had thousands and thousands of voters there every day,” Brown said. “People who requested postal ballots and ballot papers ran in their motions and then their ballots.
While the Election Committee asked voters to wear face masks and not enter the building if they felt sick, Brown said that “several people did not comply,” she told the AP.
The board also offered drive-thru elections for residents who had COVID-19 or were quarantined after coming into contact with an infected person. Part-time workers initially managed the drive-thru line, but after so many of them became ill, full-time members of the election board were put into service, according to the AP.
While infections related to the election committee outbreak were reported to the Jackson County Health Department, Brown doubted that the agency would be able to track contacts as the staff came into contact with thousands of voters, she told the AP.
Washington Newsday contacted a Jackson County spokesman with a Jackson County comment but did not return in time for the release.
According to the Department of Health, Jackson County had a total of 12,407 COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths as of November 10. The county has a seven-day average of almost 168 new cases per day, with a sharp increase in the last two weeks alone.
Nationwide, the Missouri Department of Health reported 4,256 new COVID-19 cases out of a cumulative total of 216,697 cases. The department reached a new daily high of 146 coronavirus-related deaths, although most of these deaths occurred within the last few weeks, according to the local broadcaster KSDK. More than 2,000 patients are hospitalized nationwide for coronavirus-associated diseases.
Missouri is part of a nationwide trend of rising coronavirus statistics. Daily case numbers, as well as positivity, hospitalization and death rates have skyrocketed in recent weeks in a number of states, with the U.S. reporting more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases for the seventh consecutive day.