Doctors say 54 people in Milwaukee County got COVID-19 and voted in-person on Election Day

People in Wisconsin line up to vote during coronavirus pandemic
Posted at 9:49 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 23:21:25-04

MILWAUKEE — Doctors have released the latest numbers on how many people that both tested positive for COVID-19 and were involved in in-person voting in Milwaukee County.

54 people were identified by epidemiologists as either getting COVID-19 following the election or unknowingly coming to the polls sick. But they do say the number could be higher because people had to flag themselves as taking part in the election and not everyone answered those questions.

People in Wisconsin line up to vote during coronavirus pandemic
Voters observe social distancing guidelines as they wait in line to cast ballots at Washington High School while ignoring a stay-at-home order over the coronavirus threat to vote in the state's presidential primary election, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Wisconsin held its primary election in the midst of a global pandemic on April 7th. People waited in lines that stretched down the street around the block outside five of Milwaukee high schools. Many wore masks and stood six feet apart, trying to social distance as they cast their ballot.

“52 were voters and two were poll workers,” said Ann Christiansen, director of the North Shore Health Department.

Health leaders say of those 54 people, about half, 26 people, unknowingly showed up to voting already carrying COVID-19.

“Some of those individuals were infectious before they voted. Some were infected while they were voting, some might have been infected through activities not related to the election,” said Christiansen.

Epidemiologists say with the numbers they cannot draw a conclusion between the election and the spread of COVID-19. On top of that, those helping to collect the data said they suspect the numbers are likely higher.

“It’s very likely the numbers we reflect in our report is an underestimate because we know many people were asymptomatic and we know many people were symptomatic and could not get a test,” said Darren Rausch, director the Greenfield Health Department who helped in the research.

Mayor Tom Barrett was outspoken about moving the election to a later date. He said he believes the measures the Milwaukee Election Commission to protect voters and workers made a difference but there are still 54 people who now have COVID-19.

“Some will say that's a lot. Some will say that's not many. The one thing that I will say with certainty is please don't make us go through that fiasco again,” said Barrett.

Of the 54 people who were infected with COVID-19, 44 had to be hospitalized. None those people have died.

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