Safety paramount in key battleground states as election nears

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MADISON, Wis. — Rising positive coronavirus tests in political battleground states a little more than two weeks before Election Day concern election officials who plan safe voting for those who wish to vote in person. The CDC and the nation’s top infectious disease expert agree that voting in person can be handled safely.

A positive test does not indicate severity of sickness, potential for hospitalization or death, or pressure on hospital facilities. The new rapid test machine that tests antibodies can have an error rate around 15 percent. A positive test on the machine is followed up by a more accurate PCR test.

Confirmed virus cases are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. Deaths apparently have also increased but the Associated Press did not provide comparisons to show that the actual death counts are very low compared to last spring.

Wisconsin did open a field hospital to handle COVID-19 patients but did not provide statistics to show pressure on capacity. Gov. Tony Evers said he plans to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to fill any staffing shortages at election sites.

In Iowa, Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz opened additional early voting sites in and around Davenport, the state’s third-largest city, to try to reduce the number of people casting ballots on Election Day.

Voters in Georgia, Texas and elsewhere encountered hours-long lines because the number of polling places opened for early voting is a fraction of the number that open on election day.

Positive test results for 13 of one of a Georgia’s preparation center’s 60 workers shouldn’t delay election operations, county elections director Rick Barron said. Barron said Georgia’s most populous county is working to hire replacement staff and to implement additional safety measures, including daily rapid testing.

At some polling places, workers wore masks, gloves and face shields. Lines and voting stations were set up six feet apart and the stations and pens were sanitized between users.

Election officials in Wisconsin said the state’s presidential primary provided lessons that were guiding current preparations.

Several election officials said they were confident they would have enough poll workers, sanitation supplies and protective gear to ensure Election Day goes smoothly and safely.

In Ohio, county election boards have put elaborate plans in place to keep voters safe during in-person voting that began Oct. 6.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose updated a 61-point health and safety plan in late September that provides boards with detailed guidance on sanitation, use of personal protective gear, social distancing and other measures.

—AP stories contributed to this report.

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