WEDNESDAY 4/22/2020 2:44 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Nineteen people in Wisconsin have tested positive for the coronavirus after having voted in-person in the April 7 election or after having worked at the polls, the state Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.
Five Wisconsin National Guard members who helped staff polls on election day have reported symptoms of COVID-19 but the one who was tested came back as negative, said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp. The other four were not offered tests by their doctor, he said.
The state health department said it does not know if the 19 positive cases contracted COVID-19 at the polls or elsewhere. Several of those people reported possible other exposures, the health department said.
As of Wednesday, 246 people died from the virus in the state while more than 4,800 had tested positive.
Health officials had said ahead of the April 7 election they were concerned about a spike in coronavirus cases due to in-person voting. Those concerns were heightened after voters had to wait in line for hours in close proximity at polling sites in Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said despite people who were at the polls on election day testing positive, the state can’t say whether they became infected at the polls.
“We have correlation, they voted and were at the polls, but we don’t have causation,” she said.
Milwaukee health officials have previously said they identified seven people who were at the polls who tested positive for COVID-19, but it was also too early to say whether they contracted the virus there. It wasn’t clear whether the 15 cases mentioned on Wednesday included the seven Milwaukee cases.
WISCONSIN CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
Original Story: Officials link 7 Wisconsin virus cases to in-person voting
TUESDAY 4/21/2020 7:36 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Health officials in Wisconsin said they have identified at least seven people who appear to have contracted the coronavirus from participating in the April 7 election, the first such cases following in-person voting that was held despite widespread concern about the public health risks.
The cases involve six voters and one poll worker in Milwaukee, where difficulty finding poll workers forced the city to pare nearly 200 voting locations back to just five, and where voters — some in masks, some with no protection — were forced to wait in long lines for hours.
The conditions of the seven weren’t immediately available. City health commissioner Jeanette Kowalik told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she hopes to have more information later in the week. Kowalik’s office didn’t immediately respond to a question from The Associated Press asking how city health officials were able to trace the infections to the election.
The April 7 election, which included a presidential primary as well as a state Supreme Court race and local offices, took place after a legal struggle between Democrats and Republicans. A day before the election, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers ordered that it be delayed and shifted to all-mail voting, only to be overturned when Republican legislative leaders won an appeal in the state’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court.
Thousands of Wisconsin voters stayed home, unwilling to risk their health and unable to be counted because requested absentee ballots never arrived.
State health officials had warned of an expected increase in infections from the election. State health secretary Andrea Palm said Monday that they had not shown up, but noted that symptoms may not have surfaced yet.
Health officials say symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear within two weeks of exposure to the virus, and Tuesday is the 14th day since the election. That means more voters and poll workers could come forward with infections in the coming days.
Representatives for Evers and for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald — both Republicans — haven’t responded to emails seeking comment.
The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. To date, 230 people have died in Wisconsin and nearly 4,500 have tested positive.
Wisconsin’s election has been a flashpoint of contention as Democrats and Republicans grapple with how to conduct elections in the coronavirus era as the November presidential race approaches.
Democrats and voting rights groups have filed lawsuits to expand mail and absentee voting options, and pushed for an extra $2 billion to help states adjust their election systems. National Republicans are fighting those efforts, while President Donald Trump claims without evidence that mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud.
Wisconsin is a key state in the 2020 presidential election. Democrats and liberal groups are intent on reminding voters that Republicans insisted on holding the April election despite the public health crisis. American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC, jumped on the report of election-related cases, accusing Trump of not taking responsibility for the victims.