Official: Coronavirus safety measures will be in place for early voting

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 16, 2020 3:33 PM CT | Published: July 16, 2020 12:23 PM CT

Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips reminded voters that Friday, July 17, is the first day of early voting and that safety measures will be in place.

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Phillips said during Thursday’s COVID Task Force briefing that hand sanitizer, single-use pens and disposable styluses and social distancing measures will be at all polling locations. New equipment will be used for mail-in ballots, but in-person voters will not use them due to the difficulty of training staff online on their use, Phillips said.

Masks will be available to voters if they don’t bring their own.

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Those who wish to vote by mail can apply online. Phillips said it does require a Social Security number and birth date.

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If people apply for a mail-in ballot, it will take a few days for them to get it. The last day to apply for a mail-in ballot is July 30.

Mail-in ballots must be delivered to the Election Commission by mail by 7 p.m. election day. They must be mailed in and cannot be dropped off at the office.

She said five polling places had to be changed due to the inability to social distance. Phillips said voters should pay attention for mailed information that tells them where to vote, but signage will be posted at their old polling places.

Memphis Mayor Strickland made a few statements about mask enforcement.

He said there is significant improvement in mask use and reminded residents that it helps both individuals and those around them.

He said so far, the city has processed more than 300 complaints and has issued warnings, as well two summonses.

Businesses summoned included a Kroger, but now Kroger requires masks. The other was a neighborhood market.

Strickland addressed the way the virus has affected minorities disproportionately. A new ad campaign targets the Latino community, and Strickland said a website will provide local COVID-19 information in Spanish.

A representative from La Prensa Latina said the effort will stress the importance of safety measures to the Latino community.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said continued delays in reporting hurt contact tracing ability.

The Health Department is closely looking at averages from day to day, she said.

Recovery for COVID is 21 days after diagnosis, she said.

“Tripwire” information is still in process, she said. The task force is in “marathon mode.”

The tripwires are a new set of guidelines, rules and preventive measures.

Mayors reviewed tripwire measures Thursday morning and gave feedback. Haushalter said she hopes the tripwire document will be ready in a week or a week and a half.

Haushalter said she did not want to elaborate on specifics of tripwire measures, but she said further restrictions could be avoided if people wear masks.

Haushalter said if the Health Department must implement further interventions, it has to think about economic and social impacts.

She said until there is a vaccine and many people are vaccinated, residents must find ways to stay safe in the midst of opening schools and businesses.

Haushalter also said the team is very involved with academic institutions, specifically colleges and universities. She said they are all different and there are a lot of one-on-one conversations and “technical assistance.”

She said the county must focus on testing and the testing system due to delays.

The Health Department continues to add contact tracers and enforcement staff. 

Haushalter said hospitalizations are resulting from the July 4 holiday but Shelby County is not seeing the spike it did following Memorial Day.

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She said the next few days could show transmission from July 4.

Haushalter said opening the alternative hospital at 495 Union is a data-driven decision, and she said she feels confident it will be opened when needed.

Strickland said we are all in this together.

”We are breathing the same air,” he said. “Please remember the basics.”

He told citizens if everyone wore masks and adhered to safety guidelines, things would be different locally and nationally.

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COVID-19 Joint Task Force Shelby County Health Department Linda Phillips Shelby County elections
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.

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