I am Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the Health Director for the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. Since September, I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Molly O’Dell to transition into this role. Moving forward, I will share articles with you, our community, as a way to provide important updates on COVID-19. Today, we will address voting safety – as we expect record turnout for voting this year, it is critical that we maintain safe voting practices.
I took advantage of early voting to cast my vote this year and was very impressed with the measures that were taken to assure the public’s health.
Before doing that, I wanted to share a little about myself. Growing up in Uganda, Ghana, Switzerland, and the United States fostered my passion for public health and social justice. I earned my MD and MPH degrees at Tufts University School of Medicine and completed my residency training in internal medical at the Medical University of South Carolina. Prior to moving to Roanoke, my husband’s birthplace, I had a long history of working in local public health in Guam and New York. Since moving here three years ago, I have served, and will continue to serve, as faculty at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. In my new role with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), I look forward to facilitating meaningful partnerships to improve community health and to enhance public health training and education.
With Election Day approaching, many local residents have volunteered with the state Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) through the VDH to provide Election Day support for in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. MRC volunteers are tasked with helping election officials to safely conduct in-person voting.
Mary Lou Legg, Unit Coordinator of the Near Southwest MRC, said that plans for Election Day have been underway since the spring. “The Governor’s Office activated the MRC to assist with this year’s elections starting with spring primary voting, and our training and recruitment has continued through the fall,” said Legg.
In the Roanoke Valley, approximately 50 MRC volunteers will staff local polling places. Their duties will include encouraging the use of masks and hand sanitizer and helping staff and voters maintain at least six feet of physical distance. They are also trained to spot opportunities to reduce transmission of germs, such as by keeping doors propped open to minimize the number of surfaces voters need to touch as they enter and exit the building.
Roanoke resident Tiffany Lee will work as a MRC volunteer. Lee, a professor and Latin teacher, served earlier this year during the primary. “I understand there is some degree of personal risk involved but the need to have safe elections outweighs my concerns,” said Lee. “We volunteers are provided with personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, but I already have my own. I’m ready to serve.”
According to the CDC, some tips for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
1. Make a plan. Start by visiting the Department of Elections website for options for voting.
2. Wear a cloth face covering or mask at all times while voting.
3. Exercise proper social distancing by maintaining at least six feet of separation from other voters and poll workers.
4. Practice good hygiene: wash your hands, avoid touching your face and others.
CDC’s Voter Information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/election-polling-locations.html