Concerns about the coronavirus prompted the two election authorities in McLean County to move several polling sites less than one week before the Illinois primary election.
The McLean County Board voted during an emergency meeting Wednesday to move the polling site at the McLean County Nursing Home, 901 N. Main St., Normal, to the Fairview Family Aquatic Center, 801 N. Main St., in Normal, and the Evergreen Place assisted living facility at 801 Gregory St., Normal, to Cardinal Court, 700 Gregory St., Normal.
Earlier Wednesday the Bloomington Election Commission announced it was moving its polling site at the Westminster Village retirement community “out of an abundance of caution” to the nearby DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center (in the Brickyard #2 room).
Older populations are considered to be at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The World Health Organization earlier Wednesday officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael, whose office oversees all elections in McLean County outside of Bloomington, said staff at Evergreen Place requested earlier Wednesday that the site be moved while McLean County administration asked the county-run nursing home be removed as a polling site.
“What is great is everyone in the community understands the urgency so really it’s amazing what you can get done within a 24-hour emergency such as this,” Michael said.
Michael said her office will be mailing letters with voter identification cards to the approximately 2,000 registered voters in those two precincts to alert voters to the change.
County Board Chairman John McIntyre told the County Board the county will help to ensure voters make it to the correct polling site on Election Day.
“We will see that we have someone there along with proper signage and directions given to anyone who comes to the polling place. It will be staffed by our own county staff … or by the clerk’s staff,” McIntyre said.
Michael added her office will continue to use social media to alert the public of the changes.
Westminster Village Precautions
The polling site relocation is just one of many precautions being taken at Westminster, a continuing care retirement community in Bloomington with 340 residents and 240 employees. Older adults are at higher risk of getting very sick from the coronavirus.
Chief Operating Officer Matt Riehle said Westminster got a jump on preparation because it’s flu season. That means it has vaccination policies and hygiene and infection-control practices already in place.
Now, with the coronavirus looming, Westminster staffers are meeting three times a day and are in constant communication with local and state public health agencies, Riehle said.
In addition to the polling place change, Westminster is also limiting other visitors using a CDC-style questionnaire that asks about a person’s travel history, exposure risk, and whether they have any signs or symptoms of the coronavirus.
“Any visitor that is exhibiting those or answers yes to one of the questions has been asked not to visit. Visitors under the age of 18 are also on that list,” Riehle said.
If Westminster were to see a suspected or confirmed case among its residents or staff, it has enough space to properly separate those populations, he said. That includes the type of negative-pressure isolation rooms that are commended to slow the spread of a disease.
“We have lots of capabilities at Westminster Village if that truly happened, in terms of taking immediate steps to isolate a person or groups of people. And obviously the recommendation from there is to work with your local health department and Illinois Department of Public Health,” Riehle said.
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