Voting day virus: Election officials take steps to sanitize polling stations for Super Tuesday

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Touch-screen voting machines do wonders for counting and convenience, but they could also be a hotbed for germs.

One day ahead of Super Tuesday and with coronavirus worries heightened following six reported United States deaths, local officials said they've taken extra precautions this year. But one expert WREG spoke with said that might not be enough.

Linda Phillips with the Shelby County Election Commission expects about 115,000 to come to the polls on Super Tuesday. That's more than 200,000 hands and more than 1 million fingers.

It's a potentially germy situation, especially during flu season and a time of high alert to protect against coronavirus.

"We just thought it would be a good idea to have a little bit bigger margin of safety and send disinfecting wipes to the polling places," Phillips said.

Phillips said the election commission told poll workers to clean the machines once an hour, but there's no telling how many people will use it during that time.

That's why infectious disease specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld recommends taking things into your own hands.

"No matter what somebody else is washing the machines with, don't trust that," he said. "Use your own wipes or soap and water because this virus doesn't live for long periods on non-human surfaces."

Phillips cautioned about bringing your own wipes to sanitize voting machines. She said wipes with bleach will ruin voting machines, so make sure your wipes do not have bleach before using them on voting machines.

Threlkeld also recommends washing your hands, following CDC guidelines for at least 20 seconds, after you vote, as most polling locations have bathrooms.

If you don't have access to a sink, hand sanitizer is the next-best thing. But you'll want to take a look at the ingredients to make sure there's more than 60% alcohol in it.

As for wipes, the CDC said any household brand will do.

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