2 Mercer County Board of Elections officials test positive for COVID-19; will not impact early voting

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Two people at the Mercer County Board of Elections have tested positive for the coronavirus, and while county officials say the voting or counting process shouldn't be impacted, they are now working on a backup plan.

A secure drop box was added at the Ewing facility now that others who worked in the office are isolating for 14 days and working remotely.

Normally, a voter would be able to go inside and hand in their ballot to a person at the board of elections. A county spokesperson says - as of now - the election should not be affected, as ballot counting won't begin until 10 days before the election.

Action News spoke with an election commissioner who says they continue to process incoming ballots, emptying the ballot drop boxes once a day. They are also working on a backup staffing plan if election officials have to isolate when its time to count them.

"That's just the risk that's going on right now but the fact that they reacted quickly to it by having a box outside where you can drop something off," said Danny Garber from Lawrenceville.

As the election draws near and the weather cools, state officials are keeping a close eye on New Jersey's COVID-19 numbers.

Hospitalizations are up by 19% in southern New Jersey and up 52% statewide compared to a month ago. Still, hospitalizations are well below the levels New Jersey experienced during the peak of the pandemic in the spring.

"This virus clearly remains a threat statewide," said Gov. Phil Murphy during his latest coronavirus briefing on Monday. "We continue to keep our eye on key counties and localities where there are current outbreaks and elevated numbers."

State officials say they are concerned about hotspots including Ocean County. Gloucester County has also seen an uptick, linked to the return of students at Rowan University.

On Tuesday, Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, spoke at Rowan, praising the university for knocking the numbers down after an initial spike in September.

"The university has confronted that and understood the importance of isolation and quarantine and because there are less students on campus, they've been able to do that successfully," said Birx.
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