ATLANTA - A record number of Georgians have voted early for this year's primary, many because of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger warned voters to expect a longer than usual wait times at the polls.
He says election workers will disinfecting voting machines between voters and spacing out people waiting in line to maintain social distancing.
If you plan to vote in person Tuesday, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine, says there are three things you can do to lower your risk of contracting COVID-19.
First, Sexton says, keep your distance. Try to maintain at least 6 feet of space between you and others around you.
"Try to pick a time where it's going to be a little less crowded, so that is possible to keep that distance both in any line outside, and then certainly once you're inside the building," Sexton says.
Some polling places will be marking off where to stand to keep people from clustering together.
Waiting outside is likely safer than waiting inside because you have better airflow outdoors, Sexton says.
Once you're inside the building, wear a mask and make sure it is on correctly, she says.
“It should really cover both your mouth and your nose," Sexton says. "They’re not as useful if they're just over your mouth, and they certainly don't help if you've got them pulled down around your neck or up over your head.”
Many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, but can still spread the virus, she says.
“If you've got that mask on and you happen to be in that category, it will keep you from putting those viral particles out into the environment,” Sexton says.
The virus is primarily spread through infectious respiratory droplets that are projected into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or even breathes.
The virus can also be left behind on surfaces like railings, doorknobs, and tabletops.
Sexton recommends carry a hand sanitizer with you and being careful about touching common surfaces while you’re waiting in line and voting.
Bring everything with you that you might need.
“If you think you're going to need a pen to fill out any form, bring one on your own so that you don't touch one that a bunch of other people have touched as well," she says. "Bring hand sanitizer with you. And if you do have to touch any common touch surfaces like the table or like a pen, and certainly the voting machines themselves, sanitize your hands immediately after, and don't touch your face."
Once you get home, wash your hands with soap and water.
As long as you and everyone around you are wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing, Sexton says, your risk of being infected with the virus while voting is very low.
If, on the other hand, you are concerned other people are not wearing a mask, or there is not enough space between voters, you may want to go and tested for COVID-19.
You can find a testing site through your local health department.
Sexton recommends waiting five or six days before you get tested because of the incubation period of the virus.