Americans went to the polls Tuesday under the shadow of a resurging pandemic, with an alarming increase in cases nationwide and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reaching record highs in a growing number of states.
While daily infections were rising in all but three states, the surge was most pronounced in the Midwest and Southwest.
Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and New Mexico all reported record high hospitalizations this week. Nebraska’s largest hospitals started limiting elective surgeries and looked to bring in nurses from other states to cope with the surge. Hospital officials in Iowa and Missouri warned bed capacity could soon be overwhelmed.
The resurgence loomed over candidates and voters, fearful of both the virus itself and the economic toll of any new shutdowns to control its spread. The debate over how far to take economically costly measures has divided a country already sharply polarized over President Donald Trump’s turbulent four years in office.
The pandemic colored who voters chose at the ballot box and how they did it. While many Americans took advantage of expanded access to mail-in voting, lines were long in many polling places, with record turnout expected and reminders of the pandemic everywhere.
“It’s very serious that we have 400 people gathered in one space at the height of the pandemic here in Wisconsin. So, we’ve tried to take every measure to limit the movement throughout the room,” said Claire Woodall-Vogg, the election commission director of the city of Milwaukee, where poll workers were spread out into 12 different pods to limit contact.
Wisconsin health officials reported 5,771 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a new record.
In Indiana, the Republican candidate for attorney general tested positive for COVID-19 after developing “some symptoms,” his campaign announced Tuesday. Former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita had been quarantining with his family after learning he was exposed to the virus, it said.