Tips for staying safe at the polls during COVID-19
Prisma Health infectious disease specialist Edwin Hayes, MD, explains how to stay safe from COVID-19 when voting.
Caitlin Whyte: Voting is more important than ever this year, but there’s also still a global pandemic going on. So how can we vote safely and securely without getting ourselves or other community members sick? Well, Dr. Edwin Hayes is going to help us with our voting plans this year. He is an infectious disease specialist at Prisma Health. This is Inside Health, a podcast brought to you by Prisma Health. I’m Caitlin Whyte. So Dr. Hayes, what should I be doing to follow COVID-19 safety recommendations while voting this year?
Dr. Hayes: Well, I think it’s very important to keep following the same fundamental recommendations that we’ve been doing for all kinds of precautions for COVID-19, which is regularly washing your hands and in the setting of voting, that might be a little bit altered because there’s not always a station available. So it’s probably a good idea to bring some hand sanitizer with you, especially after you touch any surfaces or equipment that they have available for you. Also wearing gloves could have some protective ability. Hand-washing I think is very, very important. And staying six feet away from other individuals, if at all possible. Keeping that distance while, while you’re in line waiting to cast your vote, which can take a long period of time. It’s a good idea to help prevent the spread of infection and wearing a mask. Just like we’ve been talking about for many, many months now, wearing a mask can be protective, not only for yourself, but for the people around you. And it’s a good idea, both for your safety and the general safety of the people in the community to consistently wear a mask when you’re around other individuals. I think if you can do all of those things together, you’ll decrease your chance of having an issue with COVID-19.
Host: If I’m heading out to a space that might be a little more crowded than I’m used to, are there certain kinds of masks that are better than others?
Dr. Hayes: So surgical masks are probably more reliable. Fabric masks are okay. And there’s some evidence to suggest that they’re helpful as well. Probably things like gators and these kinds of like handkerchief masks are going to offer a little bit less protection. You may have a little bit more of small particle kind of propelling through that surgical masks are probably the ones that I would recommend for most folks, fabric masks are okay as well.
Host: Now, if I plan on voting in person, but I find it physically challenging to, you know, wait in line, how should I handle that?
Dr. Hayes: So, if you find it physically challenging to wait in line, there’s a couple of things that you can do to kind of better prepare. Some of the things that you could consider is that the wait in line can be for a long period of time. So having a good portion of your day set aside for voting is wise to do ahead of time. It can be many hours, which means that things that would regularly do through the course of the day, like taking any of your usual medications should probably be planned for, to be done during the amount of time that you’re waiting in the line. It should be with you during that time. It’s also a good idea. If you are requiring medications, have medical conditions or would have an issue with long-term waits to consider having someone come with you as a support, potentially a family member who can be with you and tells you and get you the things you need if they’re not readily available in the line.
Some people have also considered bringing chairs things to sit on while you’re waiting in line lines. Again can be for many hours. And another consideration is to be better well versed in what facilities are available for you to vote at. Many of the voter registration offices actually have satellite branches that are open to help deal with the high volume of folks voting this season. So looking online, you may be able to find a more convenient place to vote that’s closer to your home and potentially has a shorter line. It’s a good idea for people to get educated about what this process of voting is like for the specific area where they live.
Host: Would you recommend bringing along anyone else?
Dr. Hayes: Yes. I would recommend bringing along company, especially if you have any kinds of medical issues or demands that you’re worried about, the potentially could require intervening while you’re in line waiting. That’s also something that can help keep you kind of inspired energetic. It is reasonable to bring someone with you in line.
Host: Great, Dr. Hayes, are there any other helpful tips you have for heading out to the polls this year? Any other stuff we should bring? Any other ideas?
Dr. Hayes: I would say, be educated about both COVID-19 and about what it’s like to vote right now in this country, your particular region, your particular state may have changes that develop even over the coming weeks, leading up to the election, it’s important to be aware of what those changes are and what kind of requirements there are to vote. Anything you can do to be better prepared for the voting experience in your area will help you to have the best smoothest possible experience. And the same goes for COVID-19 staying up to date with the most recent recommendations from the CDC and the data that we have available about how to protect people from COVID-19, will go a long way to making sure that you don’t have any unintended surprises or unintended hazards in the course of doing your democratic duty in voting.
Host: Well, thank you so much for these critically important tips this year, I’ll be absolutely passing them along to my family and friends this election season. That was Dr. Edwin Hayes, an infectious disease specialist at Prisma Health. For more information and other podcasts like this, head on over to PrismaHealth.org. This has been Inside Health, a podcast brought to you by Prisma Health. I’m Caitlin Whyte, stay well.
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