BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In-person voting looks quite a bit different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If you’re headed to the polls to vote, you might see some volunteers offering you a mask or making sure you have hand sanitizer while you’re in line!
The Maryland Department of Health is sending volunteers to polling places in several areas across the state to help keep voters and poll workers safe from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
“With early voting beginning [Oct. 26] and Election Day fast approaching on November 3, many voters are still expressing doubts about the safety of voting in person during this pandemic,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “Having volunteer Health Ambassadors onsite at the polls will help ensure that everyone is doing their part to keep Marylanders safe and healthy.”
Starting Monday through Election Day, the Health Ambassadors will be assigned to polling places including in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Harford County, Carroll County and Worcester County.
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They will reinforce social distancing guidelines and make sure people wear face coverings — and that they are wearing them properly. If voters do not have a mask on them, they will distribute them around the polling place. The ambassadors will also pass out hand sanitizer and disinfect high-touch areas.
Members of the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps were allowed to sign up for the program. State officials said they don’t anticipate a volunteer shortage.
University of Maryland School of Medicine infectious disease specialist Dr. Gregory Schrank said hand-washing, social distancing and mask-wearing are crucial.
“Decreas(ing the) number of people present at any given time, and also make sure people are adhering to those standard public health practices we know are effective in preventing transmission,” he said.
Harford County voter Carol Chavis told WJZ she felt safe voting on Monday.
“Everybody was wearing masks, everybody was wearing shields, they sanitized your hands when you came in,” she said.
Chavis said she got in and out quickly and safely.
“I would say it was great, very smooth, efficient, everyone was friendly. As far as keeping the spread of the germs down, yes, I felt very safe,” Chavis said.
It’s been a steady stream of folks up in #HarfordCounty for the first day of #EarlyVoting – in Jarrettsville you’re greeted at the front door with hand sanitizer and you have to wear a mask to be inside the polling place @wjz pic.twitter.com/b2QHpBirhX
— Rachael Cardin (@RachaelCardin) October 26, 2020
First-time voter Marshall Steffes said the safety requirements were not going to keep him away and he encouraged the younger generation to get out and vote.
“Everyone is really here to cast their vote and express their opinion and everyone is doing that respectfully,” he said.
Millions of Americans have already mailed in their ballots, an even safer option, according to health experts.
Schrank said it’s encouraging to see people using other forms of voting.
“They’re heeding the advice of public health experts and taking advantage of the expansions of early voting and access that has been granted this year,” he said.
To become a Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps volunteer or Health Ambassador, visit https://mdr.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Home.aspx.
If you’re looking for a specific early polling center in your area, check out the full list here.