4 States Plan to Proceed With Primaries Despite Coronavirus

March 14, 2020 Updated: March 15, 2020
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Four states with primary elections scheduled for March 17 plan to proceed despite restrictions on many types of gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials from Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois reassured voters in a statement on March 13 that they were working closely with state health officials to ensure that voting is safe.

“Unlike concerts, sporting events, or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration,” the officials said in the statement.

“Further, guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how best to sanitize machines, guidance from CDC on best practices for hand washing, and guidance from our respective state health officials is being provided to every polling location,” they added.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters that the election would occur despite the virus.

“We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re going to vote,” DeSantis said during a press conference, while adding that the primary outcome will likely not be affected by the virus, as President Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden are both on track to win their respective races in the state.

“The primaries, the way this has worked out quite frankly, are not going to be cliffhangers,” he said.

This comes on the same day Louisiana officials said they will be postponing its April 4 primary over the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. The state has rescheduled its election to June 20.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidance to prevent the spread of coronavirus at election polling locations. They are urging voters to use other ways to vote to minimize direct contact with other people such as by mail-in methods or early voting.

The CDC is also recommending that voting-associated equipment and other surfaces be frequently cleaned and disinfected, hand sanitizer, soaps, and other cleaning products be readily available at locations, and incorporate social distancing strategies such as increasing distances of voting booths.

On Friday, Trump declared a national emergency in an attempt to curb the spread of the pandemic. There are currently over 2,560 confirmed cases of the virus across the country and 51 deaths as of Saturday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The president announced a number of steps the federal government will take to ease the impact of the virus on the American people.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an emergency stimulus package to tackle the coronavirus outbreak early on Saturday, which is now headed to the Senate.

If it passes, the bill (pdf) will provide financial assistance to those impacted by the crisis, including two weeks of sick pay for workers. Employees will also be able to take up to three months of unpaid leave if they are quarantined or need to care for sick family members. Meanwhile, businesses will get a tax credit to help cover the expense.

Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.

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