As the presidential election collides with a global pandemic, the CDC says that people who are sick with the coronavirus can still vote in person on Tuesday.
In newly-updated guidance published Sunday, the agency says that voters who have tested positive or may have been exposed to the coronavirus should follow the standard advice to wear a mask, stay at least six feet away from others and sanitize their hands before and after voting. “You should also let poll workers know that you are sick or in quarantine when you arrive at the polling location,” the CDC’s website states.
For tens of thousands of Americans, that may be the only option: People who received their test results in the past few days missed the cutoff to request an absentee ballot in most states, and getting an exemption typically requires surmounting arduous logistical hurdles, as The Post previously reported. But the prospect of casting a ballot alongside someone who’s sick is unlikely to defuse the tension surrounding mask-wearing at polling places — something that remains optional in multiple states.
While turnout numbers and exit polls consume much of the national attention, the steady rise of new infections across the country shows no sign of abating. The United States reported more than 86,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing the total count to nearly 9.3 million, according to data tracked by The Post. Twelve states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming — recorded record numbers of hospitalizations.
Rural areas are feeling the strain. In Utah, overwhelmed hospitals are repurposing pediatric beds for adult patients, and plan to soon start bringing in doctors who don’t typically work in hospitals, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“We’re asking people to do things that they trained for, maybe when they were a resident, but they haven’t done in three years,” Russell Vinik, chief medical operations officer at University of Utah Health, told the paper on Monday.
Reopening plans have been rolled back and restrictions have been tightened in three New England states — Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine — as well as Illinois. But officials nationwide have steered clear of sweeping shutdowns like those imposed in the spring, and been hesitant to tell schools to switch back to virtual learning.
“Everybody’s concluded that closing schools last spring was probably a bad idea,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said at a Monday news briefing where he announced a slew of new rules, including requiring residents to wear masks in public even if they are able to stay more than six feet away from others. “Schools aren’t spreaders, and it’s hugely important for the educational and social development of kids and the psychological development of kids that they be in school.”
The scientific community remains fiercely divided over whether it’s safe for schools to be open, especially when many lack adequate ventilation or room for social distancing.
Meanwhile, in a blow to restaurant owners, Connecticut instituted a ban on dining “igloos” and other podlike structures that are becoming a popular alternative to indoor dining. As The Post previously reported, experts say that sharing a meal with members of one’s own household in a well-ventilated pod is a relatively safe activity, but the enclosures also run the risk of replicating the same conditions that make indoor dining dangerous in the first place.
In Europe, the return to lockdown restrictions in many countries is putting leaders on the defensive. On Tuesday, French Health Minister Olivier Véran pushed back against suggestions that bookshops and other small stores in Paris should be allowed to remain open, telling RTL Radio that a Parisian was contracting the coronavirus every 30 seconds, according to Reuters. He also warned that the success of the lockdown would determine whether Christmas parties and other end-of-the-year celebrations can happen in December.
Further underscoring how the virus has spread to even the most isolated parts of the world, the World Health Organization said Tuesday that more than 5,000 “suspected” covid-19 infections had been recorded in North Korea. The country has officially recorded zero confirmed coronavirus cases, something that outside experts find doubtful.
In its latest situation report, the WHO said that North Korea had tested 10,462 people and detected 5,368 “suspected” cases as of Oct. 22, with 846 new suspected infections reported in the third week of October alone. The apparent surge came less than two weeks after a large-scale military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked the public for keeping the country virus-free.
Jacqueline Dupree and Min Joo Kim contributed to this report.
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