Seven Coronavirus Cases Tied to Wisconsin Primary Election

April 21, 2020 by Dan McCue

A Milwaukee, Wisconsin health official said Tuesday that the city had identified at least seven people who appear to have contracted the coronavirus while participating in the state’s controversial April 7 primary election.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said in a statement that six of the cases involve voters who reside in the city and one is a Milwaukee poll worker.

Kowalik said that the data was still incomplete because some patients may have declined to provide complete information, were delayed in presenting symptoms, or experienced delays in testing and processing.

“We only have 30 percent of the data back from new cases as of 4/7,” Kowalik said, adding, “We hope to have these fields complete by Friday and will provide a more complete report then.”

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said her department is also monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in the state, but it has yet to see signs of a surge in cases from the election that some feared.

But cases may still be identified as the 14-day incubation period for anybody exposed on April 7 only ended today.

Milwaukee voters may also have been particularly vulnerable in the mostly-rural state as a lack of poll workers and other factors meant its 180 polling locations were drastically reduced to just five.

Wisconsin proceeded with in-person voting only after a bitter partisan fight.

Gov. Tom Evers, a Democratic, tried to shift the election to vote-by-mail and postpone it, but was blocked by the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Republican-controlled legislature.

Many of the voters who turned out to participate in the primary stood in line for several hours to cast their ballots, many without protective gear.

Now, Wisconsin Democrats worry there may be more yet-to-be-reported cases since Kowalik’s announcement was based on an incomplete count, and most health officials in the state have yet to report what they are seeing.

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.

The direct connection of contracting coronavirus from in-person voting in Wisconsin could further increase calls across the country for an expansion of vote by mail and absentee voting for the November elections.

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