Fulton managing COVID-19 outbreak at its elections warehouse

An elections worker unloads a batch of new voting machines at Fulton County Election Preparation Center in Atlanta on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Truckloads of voting machines are arriving at a large Atlanta-area warehouse, where workers are unloading piles of cardboard boxes before a critical deadline: the March 24 presidential primary. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

About 20 percent of Fulton County’s elections warehouse staff have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

Fulton elections head Richard Barron said 13 out of the 60 warehouse staff tested positive.

It started on Tuesday, with two testing positive for the virus. More tests were performed, and the additional 11 cases were found after test results from the entire warehouse came back Thursday morning.

The warehouse stores and programs all elections equipment, from paper back-ups to the electronic machines. The warehouse is where votes are tabulated.

“None of the individuals that have tested positive have any contact with voters,” Barron said, adding that this won’t have an impact on the ongoing early voting.

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Dr. Lynn Paxton, the head of the state-run Fulton Board of Health, said the virus doesn’t spread easily on hard surfaces and it is unlikely that it could be transmitted from any elections equipment that came from the warehouse.

Barron said that one of the 13 are symptomatic, and the rest are not showing signs. Staff hit with the virus are mostly those who pack supply boxes for precincts and those who empty the ballot drop boxes daily, according to the elections chief.

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The outbreak will not delay any processing of absentee mail-in ballots, Barron said. The county is recruiting more workers, all staff will be tested daily, the facility has been treated with a “germicidal barrier” and they are looking for additional space to increase social distancing, according to Barron.

“All the operations are ongoing at the warehouse right now,” he said.

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