With Wisconsin’s primary election coming up on Tuesday and the April 5 spring election, special voting deputies are once again visiting nursing homes to help residents fill out mail-in ballots despite the push for the omicron variant of COVID-19 which seems to be easing.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the Wisconsin Election Commission ordered city clerks not to send election workers to long-term care facilities as was customary, to help prevent the ‘infection. The directive remained in place for the November 2020 presidential election and the February 2021 primary.
In March 2021, the committee authorized the clerks to re-send MPs for the spring election the following month, and this direction has continued. “Clerks are instructed to follow the law and try to service all qualified facilities in their municipality,” commission spokesman Riley Vetterkind said Tuesday.
Nursing home groups and clerks said assistants tour facilities and follow the same guidelines as other visitors. Upon arrival, they are assessed for symptoms, their temperature is checked, and they must complete a questionnaire about possible COVID-19 exposure and symptoms. When indoors, they must maintain physical distancing from others and wear face masks, with some facilities requiring other protective gear.
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“They’re going to be treated like any other visitor to the facility,” said Rick Abrams, CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, and the Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living, which represents nursing homes. service flats. “We want visits to be as open as possible.”
If MPs show symptoms of COVID-19, they will not be allowed into the facilities and clerks will be asked to send other MPs, Abrams said. If facilities are experiencing widespread outbreaks, deputies may not be admitted temporarily, he said.
Abrams said he was not aware of any clerks who decided not to send deputies or facilities who refused them.
John Sauer, CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin, which also represents nursing homes and assisted living facilities, said nursing homes take inspiration from clerks, noting that “visits have certainly opened up, compared to it a year ago.”
Alyssa Gaffney, Mount Horeb Village Clerk, said two MPs visited Ingleside Communities facilities on Monday and planned to do the same before the spring election in April. They had to wear N95 masks and goggles, Gaffney said.
Holly Licht, Verona city clerk, said her deputy visits are scheduled, with temperature checks and masking expected.
Tracy Oldenburg, Fitchburg city clerk, said Tuesday that she had emailed care facilities more than a week earlier asking if deputies could turn out for the April election and if the establishments required proof of vaccination. She said she had received no response.
Some Republicans have argued, without providing evidence, that the Election Commission’s decision not to allow MPs into care facilities in 2020 may have contributed to voter fraud. They include Robert Spindell, a Republican appointed to the commission. The other five members — three Democratic appointees and two Republican appointees — defended the committee’s actions.
In October, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling claimed eight residents of Racine’s Ridgewood Care Center voted in the November 2020 election, even though their families believed they lacked the ability to vote. Without special voting deputies to help them, Schmaling suggested, someone else had to help voters, maybe even fill out their ballots for them.
In a statement last fall, the election commission, with the exception of Spindell, expressed his “arduous disagreement” with Schmaling’s claims.
Ridgewood administrator Scott Myers did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday about whether the facility is allowing deputies this spring.
The highly transmissible variant of omicron, first detected in the state in early December, led to a record 2,278 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on January 12 and a record daily average of 18,836 new reported cases. January 19. Tuesday, hospitalizations had decreased to 1,207 and the the daily average was 3,142 cases.
As of January 30, 82.2% of nursing home staff in Wisconsin who reported the information were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 89.4% of residents, according to federal data.