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Wisconsin’s in-person presidential primary earlier this month apparently did not create a spike in coronavirus infections despite the warnings and condemnation from critics.
A new study released Friday indicates that Wisconsin’s controversial April 7 election, that saw even the National Guard employed to assist at the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic, did not lead to a major increase of cases. In fact, according to the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison, even with a few new confirmed cases of the virus that may have been connected to the election, the state’s infection rate actually dropped following the day at the polls.
New cases of the virus would have begun appearing five to 14 days after the election on April 7 and the study, which was conducted by doctors from Wisconsin and Florida as well as a mathematician in Alabama from April 12-21, found there was no pronounced increase as feared.
The presidential primary election in Wisconsin, amid the social distancing guidelines due to the pandemic, saw long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots. Many volunteer poll workers quit ahead of the election, forcing the consolidation of polling locations and calling in the National Guard to assist.
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had issued an executive order to delay in-person voting until June 9, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court later blocked the order. State Republicans opposed his calls for a delay or to vote by mail.
While warnings raged about the dangers of encouraging voters to venture out to cast their ballots, Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appeared in a video wearing “mandatory” personal protective equipment insisting that it was “incredibly safe” to vote in person.
Mixed message? Top Wisconsin lawmaker, in head-to-toe protective gear, assures worried voters that it’s safe to vote https://t.co/ms8Vh23pdv
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) April 8, 2020
At least 23 people in the state who said they voted in-person or worked at the polls during the primary election have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Department of Health Services spokeswoman Jennifer Miller. The Department reported that more than 5,300 people have tested positive in the state and 262 have died, as of Friday’s figures.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported:
The ratio of Wisconsin’s rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to the U.S. rate before the election was 0.34:1, meaning the state’s rate was about a third as high as the country’s. That dropped after the election to 0.28:1, with the state’s rate a little more than a quarter as high as the country’s, the researchers found.
“Our study did not find any significant increase in the rate of new COVID-19 cases following the April 7, 2020, election post-incubation period, for the state of Wisconsin or its three major voting counties, as compared to the US,” the new study, which hasn’t yet undergone peer review nor been published, reported.
“A reduction in daily new case rates in Wisconsin was observed compared to what would have been expected if the rates in Wisconsin had followed the preelection ratios,” the researchers wrote. “Our initial hypothesis of an increase in COVID-19 activity following the live election was not supported.”
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk informed CNN that several people who tested positive for the coronavirus following the election also “reported other possible exposures as well.”
“Since we only have data on positive cases (without a comparison group of people who were not tested or tested negative), there is no way to know with certainty if any exposures at the polls that are reported are in fact attributable to COVID-19 illness,” Willems Van Dijk said in a statement to CNN.
Frustrated Wisconsin residents converged on the state Capitol Friday in defiance of the governor’s stay-at-home order to protest the ongoing rules that they see as infringing on their rights and crippling the economy.
If you’re unaware of what’s happening in Wisconsin, this is what Madison looks like right now. Thousands gather to protest Gov. Evers shelter-in-place order. Stay safe, Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/9IMnflxskj
— Sam Li (@TheSamLi) April 24, 2020
More than 1,500 protesters participated, some wearing protective masks, many carrying the U.S. flag and signs calling for an end to the lockdown orders.
— Reopen the Economy Now (@ReopenEconomy) April 24, 2020
“You’re being told to sit down and shut up because your opinion doesn’t matter,” Madison Elmer, one of the event’s organizers told the crowd Friday, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “You’re being told to listen to the professionals, but you know what, you shouldn’t ever stop questioning the professionals. They don’t live your life … they did not include you in this decision.”
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