You might be surprised to see a doctor writing a prescription for healthy voting, but you shouldn’t be. The COVID pandemic has made voting itself a health issue in 2020. Just as doctors are expected to give advice on how to prevent injuries and illness by wearing seatbelts and eating healthy, we have a duty to advise you on how to stay safe while exercising your right to vote. We’ve already seen that crowded in-person voting in the Wisconsin primaries was tied to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Doctors are concerned and want to do what we can to prevent this from happening here in North Carolina.
So what do we prescribe? Make a plan to vote from the safety of your own home. NC allows anyone to request a no-excuse absentee ballot. Voting by mail is safe and secure, but be sure to follow the directions exactly, pay attention to deadlines and return your ballot early. If you do vote in person, you can stay safe with these practices: wear a mask, stay distanced, use hand hygiene, and vote early to avoid crowds.
Request a mail-in absentee ballot, even if you think you’ll want to vote in person. COVID-19 hotspots can flare up anywhere at any time. Recall UNC-Chapel Hill attempting to open the campus for classes this Fall only to shut down two weeks in, as more than a thousand cases of COVID-19 exploded. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are not at risk, even if you are young and healthy. Remember Chad Dorrill, a 21 year old sophomore at Appalachian State University who died after contracting the virus. Even if you survive, you could have serious heart or lung issues, or become one of the “long haulers” who suffer for months with neurologic issues, fatigue and worse. We don’t yet know how long the damage will last.
Voting from home protects you and your loved ones who could contract the virus from you. By decreasing crowding at the polls, you also protect those who have to vote in person, poll workers, and your entire community.
Visit ncsbe.gov/voting for detailed election instructions.
Dr. Norma Safransky graduated from Duke University with a degree in Zoology, completed her medical degree at UNC Chapel Hill and is currently a practicing psychiatrist in Chapel Hill. When she has free time she gardens and volunteers with the Citizens Climate Lobby. She lives in Chapel Hill.