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Ingham County health officer discusses voting safety, warns to avoid large gatherings

November 3, 2020
<p>Voters socially distanced outside of the Meridian Township clerk&#x27;s office on Nov. 2, 2020.</p>

Voters socially distanced outside of the Meridian Township clerk's office on Nov. 2, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

The county has done everything in its power to ensure voting on Election Day is safe for members of the community, though every activity holds some risk, according to Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail at a media briefing Tuesday.

While precincts cannot require masks to be worn as a condition of voting, the Ingham County clerk worked with all local clerks to pull together a training and meeting to talk about protocols.

All volunteers at the polls will be distancing and wearing face coverings and all pens used for voting will be disinfected after each person’s use. Temperatures will be taken upon entry for those working the poll, in accordance to employee health screening guidelines outlined by the county in response to COVID-19.

Vail said they have likewise encouraged absentee and mail-in or drop-off voting in order for county residents to avoid the potential for infection at the polls.

“Vote, please vote,” Vail said. “No matter which side of that you are on, science says that social distancing, trying not to be in large indoor crowds, wearing masks if you are in those indoor areas as well, face coverings as well as maintaining that social distancing is going to mitigate risks to a large extent.”

This past weekend, Michigan State University saw an outbreak of crowds burning couches in celebration of a football victory against the University of Michigan. Between this, Trump’s Lansing rally Oct. 27 and voting, Vail said it is challenging to predict what an uptick in cases may be tied to.

“The most important message right now is not to be kind of zoning in for outbreaks or whatever," Vail said. "We have broad and widespread community transmission. ... When you go out and about, instead of trying to avoid a place you might have heard there’s a case here or whatever, you should just assume there is the likelihood for COVID exposure almost anywhere at this point in time."

The risk of exposure can be mitigated by avoiding large gatherings, wearing face coverings and social distancing, Vail said.

As of Tuesday, Ingham County reports 4,981 COVID-19 cases and 70 deaths. Hospitalizations across the county in Sparrow and McLaren health facilities total 91 confirmed and suspected cases or 82 total confirmed. Of those, 19 are in the intensive care unit and nine are ventilated.

These numbers are based on overall bed occupancy at the two facilities, rather than only Ingham County residents as had been previously reported.

With numbers like these, Vail said hospitals are beginning to max out in terms of their census.

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