Fulton County elections warehouse hit by COVID outbreak

ATLANTA (AP) — Nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

But the positive tests for 13 of the 60 workers at the Fulton County election preparation center shouldn’t delay election operations, county elections director Rick Barron told reporters during a videoconference.

He said the outbreak was discovered after an employee left work Saturday feeling sick and got a positive test result on Tuesday. After a second employee also tested positive, all of the warehouse staff was tested and an additional 11 cases were discovered. Barron said it’s his understanding that only one employee is experiencing symptoms of the disease.

Additional workers are being recruited to continue the work of those who are affected, and daily rapid testing will be implemented for all employees as they report to work, Barron said. County officials also were exploring other spaces to move operations out of the warehouse to allow workers to do their jobs with increased social distancing, he said.

The affected workers were responsible for doing preelection testing on the voting equipment and for packing supply boxes and collecting absentee ballots from drop boxes. None of the affected workers have direct contact with voters, Barron said.

Two workers at the central elections office tested positive in the spring, and one of them ended up dying. That resulted in the office being closed for cleaning and grieving, and contributed to a delay in the processing of absentee ballot applications.

Preelection testing is continuing and early voting isn’t being affected by the outbreak, Barron said.