GENERIC: (no text) Contact tracing, COVID-19, coronavirus, community spread

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Two employees at a rural county clerk’s office in northeast Kansas have contracted COVID-19, forcing its other two employees to quarantine just days before the state’s primary election.

Jackson County Clerk Kathy Mick has COVID-19 and members of the Jackson County Elections Board are filling in to ensure the the county's primary election goes forward Tuesday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“I have an excellent staff in there carrying on without me,” Mick said. “I’ve had a wonderful group of people step up to help me.”

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab's office said Friday it's unaware of any other local election office in Kansas whose staff has been quarantined because of the pandemic.

“Our office is providing support to Jackson County to ensure they are prepared for the primary election,” SOS spokeswoman Katie Koupal told The Associated Press in an email.

The secretary of state's office has informed local election officials that an individual cannot be turned away from voting for not wearing a mask. They have also provided the counties with PPE kits, Plexiglass shields and disposable stylus pens to use at their local polling places.

Additionally, Kansas provided $2.6 million to counties in federal CARES Act funding to reimburse them for expenses related to COVID-19 and encouraged them to make social distancing as easy as possible at polling locations.

Voters are encouraged not to wait to mail their advance mail ballots, Koupal said. Ballots can be returned by hand delivering them to local election offices, dropping them in a secure election office drop box or at a polling location on election day.

Joyce Immenschuh, who's on the Jackson County Elections Board and volunteering in the office, said the office mailed out 658 advance ballots. Jackson County usually mails out 200-250 advance ballots in a primary.

Meanwhile, election workers are trying to ensure voter safety.

“We are fogging offices,” Mick said. “We will have Plexiglas screens, hand sanitizer when you walk in. There will be 6 feet between people. You’ll get a pen and wrapper. You’re not going to touch anything anyone else has touched."

“Then we want you out of there," she continued. "We’re thinking we have everything covered.”

Mick, who has been county and elections clerk since 1993, said she doesn’t know how she contracted COVID-19. She had a fever Sunday and learned the next day she had tested positive for coronavirus.

“I’m on the phone eight hours a day for the last few days,” she said. “I’m talking to my supervising judges, going over process with teams, such as how to use the iPads and how to pack up afterward.”

A few election volunteers didn’t sign up because of virus concerns, but the county has found some replacements.

Mick is asking voters to wear masks to protect volunteers and other voters.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal.

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