Editorial: When voting today, take steps to protect yourself, others

Georgia's general primary and presidential preference primary seemed like they would never get here.

They were scheduled for March, but the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced a rescheduling to May, then to today. While the state presidential primaries have virtually been decided, there are plenty of local and state races that will impact our community.

Voters will see the many precautions our local elections officials and workers have taken to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

"Workers will be wearing masks," said Mary Hammontree, Whitfield County's chief registrar. "Voters are encouraged to wear them, especially if they are in the high-risk category. But not wearing a mask will not keep you from voting at the precinct."

The Georgia Department of Public Health says older adults and those who have diabetes, heart disease or lung diseases are at high risk from the coronavirus.

"There will be social distancing requirements at the polling locations," Hammontree said. "There will be hand sanitizer for the voters. We also have cleaning supplies for the poll workers to sanitize the machines, tables, voter cards, door knobs and all other things a voter might have to touch. The equipment will be sanitized often."

In Murray County, there will be similar precautions to protect both voters and poll workers.

"Most of the workers will be wearing masks and equipment will be sanitized as often as possible," said Election Superintendent Larry Sampson. "The voters are encouraged to wear masks but it is not mandatory. Social distancing is encouraged and there will be a deputy at each polling place to help with that."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these guidelines for helping reduce the spread of COVID-19:

• Wash your hands often.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home. If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.

• Stay at least 6 feet from other people. Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others

• Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

• Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of COVID-19.

Polling hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Voters must bring a photo ID.

We share your concerns about COVID-19, but we hope that those fears do not deter you from voting. We hope to see you at the polls -- safely!

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