April 22, 2020
Seven Wisconsin Coronavirus Cases Traced Back To Election Day

Officials in Wisconsin have traced seven coronavirus cases back to the state's April 7 election, when voters were forced to wait in long lines at polling places, the Associated Press reports.

Wisconsin's primary election turned out to be problematic for voters and poll workers alike. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many poll workers opted out, forcing the state to pare down the number of election locations. Furthermore, as reported at the time by The Inquisitr, the Supreme Court declined to extend absentee voting in the state. These two factors forced Wisconsin voters to wait in hours-long lines at some voting places, particularly in Milwaukee, where only a handful of locations remained open.

During the election, social-distancing was haphazard at best, as people were forced to be in close proximity to one another for long periods of time. While some wore face masks, many did not.

Now, seven Wisconsinites -- 6 voters and 1 poll worker, all in Milwaukee -- have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a report from state health officials.

As detailed in NPR News, the report was released on Monday, April 21, 14 days after the election. Symptoms of coronavirus generally appear within about 14 days of exposure.

"As of today, we have identified seven individuals that contracted, or at least it appears, COVID-19 through election-related activities," said Jeanette Kowalik, the city's health commissioner.

Kowalik noted that her office hopes to have a more complete picture of possible coronavirus exposure on Election Day within the next week or so.

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MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 07: A poll worker helps voters at a polling place at Riverside University High School on April 07, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Voters waited sometimes more than two hours at the school, one of the few polling places open in the city after most were consolidated due to a shortage of poll workers fearful of contracting COVID-19. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Getty Images | Scott Olson

In a tweet, the Wisconsin Democratic Party tied the new coronavirus cases to the election and blamed the state's Republicans for the exposure, as their opposition to extending absentee voting led to the long lines on Election Day.

"This was 100% avoidable. But Republicans refused to listen to the science and take this crisis seriously."
However Darren Rauch, a health official in suburban Greenfield, was reluctant to conclusively tie the new coronavirus cases to the election.

"They were at the polls, which is a potential exposure, but (we) can't say they definitely got it at the polls," he said.

Outside of Milwuakee, Wisconsin health officials say they haven't seen a spike in coronavirus cases statewide since the election.

Wisconsin's issues with holding an election during a pandemic could be an early indicator of the perils of holding the November 2020 election if the pandemic is still going strong by then. Voting rights advocates are asking Congress for $2 billion to $4 billion to expand voting by mail and make voting in person safer.