During the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail may be your safest option, but health experts want voters to know it’s also possible to safely vote in person.
Voters are advised to wash their hands thoroughly before operating voting machines. It is best if you do not touch your face before washing your hands. When waiting in line, try to practice social distancing while voting.
“For those who do decide to vote in person, it’s a lot of the same principles that we use to go anywhere in the community,” Caitlin Rivers, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told TODAY.
“Definitely wear a mask, keep your distance from other people, wash your hands, and where possible, where it makes sense, try and be outside instead of inside,” Rivers said.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America shared guidelines on what voters should do if they are heading to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to wearing a face mask while social distancing, it is best to have all of the documents in your hands, so you don’t have to spend time searching for them.
It is also recommended to avoid bringing others to the poll, such as children who are not voting and can be left with another adult at home.
Barun Mathema, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said voters should pay attention to local COVID-19 statistics in their area. If your community is seeing an outbreak, Mathema said you should avoid voting in person if possible.
“What I would want to know is ‘Where am I voting, what is that community data?’” Mathema said. “Is the community having an active surge of cases, are there ongoing outbreaks that have been documented? I think that would be an important thing to know.”
Mathema said that voting facilities should increase ventilation, like open windows. However, for voting lines, it is best to wait outside.
Poll workers should clean surfaces within the voting location at least every four hours. Door handles, voting machines, and other touched surfaces should be wiped down.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, do not go into a polling center.