CORONAVIRUS

Iowa delivering face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and funding for June 2 primary election

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds shows locally manufactured personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer during an April 20 ne
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds shows locally manufactured personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer during an April 20 news briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston. The Secretary of State’s Office and county auditor offices are equipping polling places with sanitizers and PPEs for use during the June 2 primary. (Olivia Sun/Des Moines Register)

With less than two weeks before the June 2 primary election, county auditors are making sure they have everything necessary for in-person voting — poll workers, ballots, pens and funnels.

The funnels will be used when pouring hand sanitizer into spray bottles to keep polling places clean to allay fear of the novel coronavirus.

The Iowa Secretary of State Office partnered with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Iowa National Guard to deliver 613 funnels — one for each polling place — for local election officials to use when pouring 1,832 gallons of hand sanitizer into 2,452 spray bottles.

“Protecting voters and poll workers while making sure every eligible Iowan is able to safely cast a ballot is our goal,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said. “We want Iowans who choose to vote in-person to know we’re taking precautions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

Local election officials also are receiving 130,000 gloves, 68,000 masks, 15,700 face shield manufactured by U.S. Nameplate in Mount Vernon and 15,000 social distancing floor signs printed by Tru Art in Iowa City.

The supplies are among the steps being taken to protect poll workers and voters who choose to cast in-person ballots from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 2.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pate’s office and county election officials are encouraging voters to cast mail-in absentee ballots. To get an absentee ballot, the request form must be received in the county auditor by 5 p.m. Friday.

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More than $500,000 in federal grant money is being provided to counties to help cover the cost of other safety materials, according to the Secretary of State Office. That’s $300 per precinct regardless of whether polls in those precincts will be open June 2. Auditors can decide how to use those funds.

The masks, gloves and sanitizer are in addition to the $300 per precinct.

Linn County Plans

Linn County requested and received 200 masks for workers, 500 gloves, 48 gallons of hand sanitizer and 6-foot social distancing marking stickers. The Auditor’s Office also expects face shields for all poll workers.

In addition, the Linn County Auditor’s Office bought 5,000 disposable masks for voters. Voters will not be required to use them to vote, but they will be made available to anyone who does not have a mask.

It also bought 400 additional gloves, additional signage, spray bottles, microfiber wipes, hand sanitizer bottles, Cedar Ridge hand sanitizer and painter’s tape for 6-foot social distancing marks.

The auditors also plans to purchase thermometers for workers to take their own temperatures.

Johnson County Plans

In Johnson County, Auditor Travis Weipert received about $17,000 in grant money and has been using that in collaboration with other county offices to obtain supplies of personal protective equipment.

In addition to face shields and masks, Weipert has bought bootees for poll workers to wear while at the polls and remove when they leave to go home. He’s still trying to stock up on alcohol wipes, but believes he has plenty of spray bottles and towels.

Weipert has been working with Emergency Management and Public Health on obtaining the personal protective equipment all departments need. A county employee is tracking those expenditures so every department knows how much they will need to reimburse Weipert for those supplies.

The public might not see “all the behind-the-scenes stuff, but believe me, people are working and working hard” on finding the necessary supplies, Weipert said.

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Help From Feds

In Iowa, the county auditors have primary responsibility for conducting elections. Pate, however, said his office worked with the federal Office of Homeland Security and others to get supplies and materials.

“We’ve gotten some federal grant money we have passed onto the counties to help in the cleaning of these sites both during an election and after the election,” he explained recently on Iowa PBS’ “Iowa Press.” “So there is a full array of services we’ve tried to make sure they have.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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