The omnipresent specter of the coronavirus gave Election Day a distinctly dystopian feel, with voters in goggles and face shields handing ballots to poll workers clad in hazmat suits or sealed behind layers of plexiglass. But exit polls showed that Americans casting votes Tuesday ranked the state of the economy as a more pressing concern than the pandemic, according to data collected by Edison Research and reviewed by The Post.
About 4 in 10 voters said they would prioritize the economy over efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Around one-third of voters said they were primarily motivated by the economy — a sentiment that was particularly widespread among Trump supporters, of whom 6 in 10 cited the economy as their top priority.
Health officials nationwide attempted to capture the attention of a distracted nation Tuesday, warning that the steady increase of infections that began in mid-September is not slowing down amid lingering uncertainty over potential vaccines.
The scientist overseeing the trial investigation of the one of the most advanced vaccine candidates, Andrew Pollard, signaled optimism Wednesday that late-stage results could become widely available before the end of December. He added that there is “a small chance” that the vaccine, developed by Oxford University, could become available by late December, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations and fatalities in the United States are continuing to trend in the wrong direction.
“We are again in danger of losing control of this pandemic in Iowa,” Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, wrote in an urgent appeal to the state’s residents. “Our covid positivity rates skyrocketed twice before, but this is the first time we have seen rates this high while also dealing with record patient hospitalizations.”
Some hospitals in the St. Louis and Omaha metropolitan areas have started rescheduling elective surgeries to free up beds, while the head of the Arkansas Hospital Association said at a briefing Tuesday that the state was facing a critical shortage of health-care workers as states furiously compete for nurses.
Covid-19 now ranks as the third leading cause of death in Arkansas, with only cancer and heart attacks claiming a larger share of lives, said Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R).
“It is a deadly virus that takes people’s lives,” Hutchinson said. “We want to make sure everybody understands the seriousness of it.”
States reporting a record rise in infections Tuesday included two key swing states — Ohio and Pennsylvania — in addition to Maine, Minnesota and New Mexico, according to data tracked by The Post. Another battleground state, Florida, was deemed a “red zone” by the White House coronavirus task force last week after per capita cases increased by 14 percent, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Although many voters and election workers across the country opted to cover up with masks and other protective gear Tuesday, one Dallas precinct became a source of controversy when the election judge and poll workers opted to invoke their right to remain maskless. Beth Biesel, the election judge and a Republican activist, had already been removed from her post during the primary elections because of her refusal to wear a mask, according to the Dallas Morning News. But different rules for the general election meant that she could not be forced to wear one.
Lynn Dickinson, a Democrat who was supposed to serve as an alternate election judge, told the Texas Tribune that she walked off the site because she did not feel safe “breathing the air they’re spewing all over the place.”
More European countries ramped up restrictions Tuesday as Agence France-Presse reported that the continent’s tally of infections has surpassed 11 million. The Netherlands banned public gatherings with more than two people from different households, while Hungary shuttered bars and issued a nightly curfew, according to Reuters.
In famously lockdown-averse Sweden, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warned that the “very serious situation” would require a tougher approach and recommended that residents avoid public transportation, gyms and shopping malls in most parts of the country.
“The brief respite that we got during the summer is over,” Lofven said Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News.