Poll Workers

Florida poll workers test positive for Coronavirus.

Two Florida poll workers tested positive for coronavirus after the state's March 17 primary, the Broward County supervisor of elections announced Thursday.

The announcement came after Florida faced criticism for moving ahead in-person voting despite concerns over coronavirus. Around 20% of the state is age 65 or older, a demographic extremely vulnerable to the virus

The two poll workers worked at separate locations in Hollywood, Florida. One was at the Martin Luther King Community Center and the other at the David Park Community Center. One of the poll workers also worked at a location in Weston during early voting.

County staff as well as other poll workers at those locations have been notified of the situation and have been advised to take appropriate steps, the Broward County supervisor of elections said in a statement. Voters who voted in person on March 17th at either of those locations or who voted early at the Weston early voting location may wish to take appropriate steps and seek medical advice.

Governor Ron DeSantis last week declared a state of emergency in Florida in the face of the coronavirus as millions of Floridians are set to vote on Tuesday in a crucial delegate-rich primary that will help determine whether Bernie Sanders stays in the Democratic presidential nomination race against Joe Biden.

In Florida, the impact of the virus, if left unchecked, could be particularly harsh on the state's ability to allow people to vote or vote safely without fear of infection.

The state is home to one of the largest elderly populations in the country, with around 20% of the residents age 65 or older. While this age group tends to be a stable voting bloc for both political parties, it's also the most vulnerable to the virus which has a mortality rate around 18% for those over 80 years old.

DeSantis issued an executive order barring people who may have been exposed to the virus from visiting nursing homes. He urged election officials throughout the state to consider moving their polling locations for the state's 17 March primary out of those locations.

But over the weekend before election day, the state seemed to be lacking a unified response, with many polling stations in senior centers and retirement communities still operating at status quo.

Workers at Country Aire Manor, Senate Manor Estates, and Crystal Lakes Manor Pasco and Pinellas county polling sites all held in communities comprised entirely of people above 55 said they had received no guidelines for the election, and were already receiving equipment to set up for Tuesday.

All locations will be open, said Robin Lehoux, who works at the parks and recreation department in Pompano Beach, Florida. She hadn't heard of any instructions from the state or local government regarding the Mullins Park Senior Center, a polling precinct where other senior programming had been shut down.

But Florida's piecemeal response has been a stark departure from other election officials across the country implementing last-minute measures to stave off concerns about contracting coronavirus at the polls. In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered all polling stations in senior centers and nursing homes to be relocated. Louisiana's state's top election official, Kyle Ardoin, announced Friday the primary election next month would be postponed until June

They're playing catch up, said congressman Darren Soto, who represents a central Florida district that includes Orlando. Soto was still expecting a large voter turnout on Friday, and said he was focused on making sure voting precincts remained open so crowds were dispersed. The main thing is to avoid long lines so people can conduct best practices.

Some election officials are still taking full precautions.

In Broward county, the local supervisor of elections announced this week the county was moving 12 precincts from senior centers and assisted living facilities to alternate locations. The county sent out postcards to all of the voters who would normally cast ballots there letting them know their locations had moved.

Some senior living facilities don't want to move their polling locations because they are wary of having to transport residents, said Steve Vancore, a spokesman for the Broward county elections office. In such cases, the county elections office will make sure they have adequate cleaning and sanitization supplies, Vancore said.

State officials held a conference call with local supervisors of elections on Thursday to discuss sanitary measures they could take at the polls. In Volusia county, the supervisor of elections reminded voters they could bring their own pens to fill out ballots. In Marion county, elections officials have limited cleaning supplies and are encouraging people to bring their own from home, said Wesley Wilcox, the county's supervisor of elections.

Lack of unified response in state that is home to one of the largest elderly populations in the country

'They're playing catch up': Florida struggles to respond to coronavirus in time for key primary