Okaloosa Voting Proceeds, Despite Two COVID-19 Cases
The Okaloosa County elections office has closed the Crestview office to the public after Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux and an employee have tested positive for coronavirus.
It’s not the best timing as early voting kicks off Monday, said Public Relations and Voter Education Coordinator Katie Fults, but staff is doing “everything we possibly can to be safe.”
“It’s like we’re swimming in shark-infested waters,” she said.
Lux and the elections employee are experiencing mild symptoms, said Fults, who spoke with Lux Sunday. Lux said he was experiencing some fatigue and chills, but on Saturday night he lost his sense of taste and smell which prompted him to get a rapid COVID-19 test. In a news release Sunday afternoon, the elections office reported that Lux will work remotely and self-isolate for the recommended amount of time, which is 10 days after symptom onset, according to the CDC.
Okaloosa elections staff had an emergency meeting Friday to go over coronavirus protocols ahead of early voting, there was also a canvassing board meeting Saturday. Fults said all canvassing board members have been notified.
In the meantime, there is a presidential election coming up in about two weeks. And elections staff is still working — from home and at the office — to make sure democracy is working.
A staff of eight is still at the Crestview office — spaced out in their individual offices.
“We’re masked-up, Lysoling the entire building,” said Fults.
Fults said they’ve received “quite a number of calls” already today about early voting and the positive cases. But there is no disruption in operations, she said. Staff is available by phone or email. And the Shalimar office remains open.
A drop box immediately outside the Crestview office on Wilson Street allows voters to drop off their ballots, vote by mail ballot requests and any other forms they need to get to the elections office. The deadline to request a vote by mail ballot is 5 p.m. Saturday.
This is the first positive case — or cases — for the elections office. Since March, Okaloosa elections staff have been working on protocols for what to do in this situation, and how to safely vote in person.
When it comes to the polls, staff and volunteers are going “way, way above and beyond,” said Fults. Sprays, gloves, masks, face shields will all be utilized.
Early voting sites are open through Oct. 31 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Locations include:
- Okaloosa County Administration Building, 1250 Eglin Parkway, Shalimar
- Crestview Community Center, 1446 Commerce Drive, Crestview
- Destin Community Center, 101 Stahlman Ave.
- Niceville Community Center, 204 Partin Drive
Fults said they’re also working to reduce the amount of shared items with single-use pens and single-use secrecy sleeves.
And while masks will not be required at voting precincts, they are encouraged. Voters are asked to social distance and respect the poll workers who are willing to be there during this “crazy election year,” said Fults.
“This is all unfortunate timing, but we’ll power through,” she said. “We’ll get through it, some way, somehow.”