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COVID-19 Update September 23, 2020: Voting Safely During the Pandemic

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Glossary

  • Virus– a type of germ that consists solely of a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a protein coat.  The coat gets the genes into the target cell where the genes force the cell to make zillions of new viruses, and on it goes.
  • Coronavirus– a species name of a number of different viruses.  Called corona because its protein coat is studded with spike shapes that form a crown, halo, or corona of spikes
  • SARS-CoV-2– the specific name of the new coronavirus
  • COVID-19-the name of the illness that the new coronavirus is causing
  • Endemic– an illness always present in a region.  One could say strep throat is endemic in the US
  • Epidemic– a sudden burst of an illness that comes and goes over a limited time
  • Pandemic– an epidemic that bursts across the world not just one region
  • Spreadability– how contagious is the disease, how many people will end up infected
  • Symptoms- the experience of being ill, for example- fever, cough, headaches, loss of smell etc.
    • Asymptomatic– literally means “without symptoms”.  For COVID-19 it refers a person infected with the virus but has no and will have not symptoms
    • Presymptomatic– This is a person who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will feel sick, but hasn’t yet
  • Severity– what harm does the disease cause, in terms of  how sick you get and how many it will kill
  • Mask- a mask is a loose-fitting cloth or textile that covers the mouth and nose loosely.  A surgical mask is a mask used in surgery
  • Respirator-  for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, a respirator is a mask that fits very snugly or tightly to the user’s face.  An N95 mask is a respirator.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)- PPE are any item that covers any part of the body with the design and intent of keeping viruses in the environment from infecting the wearer of the PPE. PPE’s include all masks (which includes respirators), face shields, eye shields, gloves, gowns.
  • Ventilator- a ventilator is a machine that can force a person unable to breathe to inhale and exhale and control both effectively.  They are sometimes called respirators, but during this pandemic the word respirator is now reserved for reference to a tightly fit mask.
  • Live Virus Swab– this is the swab which attempts to swipe live virus from one’s nose or throat to see if you are currently infected.
  • Antibody Test- (aka serology test) this is the blood test which looks for antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see if you have been infected in the past.

 

Voting Safely During the Pandemic

On October 6, voting opens across Ohio, and on November 3 it ends across the United States.

As nearly 140 million or more adult Americans act to vote, we thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance about how to do so safely, effectively.

We hope this guidance prevents anyone from catching COVID, and deliver their vote in time while voting this Presidential election season.

Key Situations to Avoid

The key strategy to pursue to avoid catching COVID-19 by voting is to remain more than 6 feet away from anyone, and remain masked, while voting.

This strategy of course can be fully met by voting from home, also known as voting by mail, or the absentee ballot– all of which are the same action.

But, if one chooses to vote in person, this strategy of course can still be met, as long as you wear your mask and keep your 6 foot distance.

Voting Choices

There are four options to vote in the US:

  1. Vote from home and deliver your ballot to a dropbox
  2. Vote from home and mail in your ballot
  3. Vote in person early
  4. Vote in person on November 3

The first step for everyone, in all these options, is to register.

The deadline to register to vote if you reside in Ohio is October 5. 

This website is a universal place for any voter to get ready to vote, including to register:

www.vote.org.   Go there today if you want to vote and are not yet registered.

In Ohio, that link is: https://olvr.ohiosos.gov/

The second step is to choose how to vote and not catch COVID-19.

The four options above are your choices.

Again, www.vote.org will allow you to complete any of these four options.

If you decide to vote from home – only after registering of course.

  1. The first step is to apply for a ballot to be sent to your home.  In Ohio to get your ballot at home, you must apply here:  https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/how-to-request-your-absentee-ballot/
  2. In Ohio, the deadline to apply is October 30, but if you want to vote from home, apply now. Applying later risks not getting your ballot in time.
  1. Once you have your ballot, fill it out as instructed, and return it to the Board of Elections to cast your vote.
  2. In Ohio, the deadline for the Board of Elections to receive your ballot is postmarking by or earlier than November 2.   But the Board of Elections urges all voters to send in their ballots-from-home ASAP
  3. You can cast your vote-from-home in two ways:
    •  Mail it back- In Ohio this requires you put a stamp on the envelope containing your vote.
    •  Put your ballot in the dropbox in your county’s Board of Elections. This is what I do.  There is no COVID risk, you drive up to the drop box parking lot, wear a mask, and drop your ballot it, no mail delays. In Cuyahoga County the drop box is at 2925 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. For other counties here is the directory of where to drop off your ballot: https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/elections-officials/county-boards-of-elections-directory/

If you decide to vote in person, you can vote early or on Election Day

How to vote in-person and early, that is, before November 3

In Cuyahoga County voting in person before November 3 is only done at the Board of Elections at 2925 Euclid Avenue.  Early in-person voting begins on October 6 and opens every weekday from then to Election Day at 8:00 AM.  As we approach Election Day, the hours extend from closing at 5PM to 7PM.  Two weekends are available- Oct 25/25 and Oct 31/Nov 1.  Here is the complete list of hours:  https://boe.cuyahogacounty.gov/en-us/11032020EarlyInPerson.aspx

For other counties, check out www.vote.org for your details.

If you applied for a vote-from-home ballot, and you change your mind and vote in person but early, your vote in person will count as your vote-from-home ballot, and will be fully counted, on Election Day, and not be provisional.

How to vote in-person and on Election Day, November 3

Go to your polling place

Go to www.vote.org to find out where that is.

If you applied for a mail-from-home ballot, your ballot at the polling place, on Election Day will take its place, but will be held over as provisional.

If you vote in person, try going early, before November 3, you will avoid crowds and long waits.  If you vote on November 3, might consider bringing some drinks and even a portable chair or stool.

And be sure to wear a mask and keep your distance if you vote in person by any path.

BOTTOM LINES

  1. Voting is a chance to participate in Democracy, the core action of any Democracy.
  2. Many studies prove that participating in a Democracy actually improves health, fosters a sense of belonging, gives voice to your thoughts.
  3. This year, the health benefits of voting require smart thinking about avoiding catching COVID-19 when you vote.
  4. Four options are listed above, two require a vote-from-home, or absentee ballot; and two require voting in person.
  5. First step for all voters is to register, do so soon, the deadline is a week from Monday.  So register well before October 5.
  6. If you want to vote from home, get an absentee ballot ASAP.  They get sent out in Ohio a week from next Tuesday, on October 6.
  7. Your mail-from-home ballot can be mailed (ASAP) or dropped off as detailed above, at your county’s dropbox for ballots.
  8. If you want to vote in person, wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart.  You can vote early as outlined above, or at your polling place above.

Safe, effective voting is available to all qualified citizens now, but that window is closing soon, so make your plans today.

The one stop shop to make sure you can vote in time, and safely is www.vote.org

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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