Hospitalized People Can Still Vote in Most Parts of the Country | Healthiest Communities

Johnathon Talamantes, of South-Central Los Angeles, broke his hip in a car accident on Oct. 22 and underwent surgery five days later at a public hospital near downtown.

His post-op recovery will keep him in the hospital, L.A. County+USC Medical Center, beyond Election Day, and as he prepared himself for the surgery, he wondered what that would mean.

“One of the first things I asked my nurse this morning was, ‘Oh, how am I going to vote?'” Talamantes, 30, said from his hospital bed the day before the operation.

He initially thought of asking his mom to rummage through a pile of papers at the home he shares with her and bring him the mail-in ballot that he, like all registered California voters, received for this election.

But then staffers at LAC+USC told him about another option: They could help him get an emergency ballot and cast his vote without having to get out of bed. So Talamantes told his mom not to bother.

“I don’t want her coming down here, because of the COVID restrictions,” he said.

California law protects the rights of voters who are in the hospital or other care facilities, or confined at home. It allows them to get help from anyone they choose — other than an employer or a union representative — and to cast an emergency ballot.

In some states, only family members can assist hospitalized patients with voting from the hospital.

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Scott Rice sits in his living room watching a Fox News Channel interview with President Donald Trump in Appleton, Wis., Aug. 20, 2020. Nothing can shake Rice's faith that Trump will save the U.S. economy, not seeing businesses close or friends furloughed, not even his own hellish bout with the coronavirus. But in Appleton, a city of 75,000 people along the Fox River, the health of economy isn't judged on jobs numbers, personal bank accounts or union contracts. Instead, it's viewed through partisan lenses, filtered through the facts voters want to see and hear, and those they don't. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

In California, New York and several other states, hospital employees and volunteers can help a patient complete an emergency ballot application. They can pick up the ballot for the patient and deliver the finished ballot back to the election office or deposit it in an official drop box.

In 18 states, the law allows local election boards to send representatives directly to patients’ bedsides, though six of those states have canceled that service this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Kelly Wong, founder of Patient Voting, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing turnout among registered voters unexpectedly hospitalized around election time.

The group’s website features an interactive map of the United States with state-by-state information on voting while in the hospital. It also allows patients to check whether they are registered to vote.

Wong, an emergency room resident at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, recalled that when she was a medical student working in an ER, patients who were about to be admitted to the hospital would tell her, “‘I can’t be admitted; I have let the dogs out, or I’m the sole caretaker of my grandmother.'” Then during the election of 2016, she heard, “‘I can’t stay. I have to go vote.'”

“That really caught my attention,” Wong said. She did research and learned patients could vote in the hospital using an emergency ballot — something none of her co-workers knew. “Our patients don’t know this, she said. “It should be our job to tell them.”

Some U.S. hospitals have been

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In the hospital? You can still vote in California and most other parts of the country

Johnathon Talamantes in a hospital bed.
Johnathon Talamantes broke his hip in a car accident and needed surgery that will keep him hospitalized beyond the Nov. 3 election. The hospital helped him apply for an emergency ballot so he can vote without leaving his bed. (Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center)

Johnathon Talamantes broke his hip in a car accident last week and had surgery five days later at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

His post-op recovery will keep him in the hospital beyond election day, and that was on his mind as he prepared himself for the surgery.

“One of the first things I asked my nurse this morning was, ‘Oh, how am I going to vote?’” Talamantes, 30, said from his hospital bed the day before the operation.

He initially thought of asking his mom to rummage through a pile of papers at the home they share and bring him the mail-in ballot that he, like all registered California voters, received for this election.

But then staffers at County-USC told him about another option: They could help him get an emergency ballot so he could cast his vote without having to get out of bed. So Talamantes told his mom to not bother.

I don’t want her coming down here, because of the COVID restrictions,” he said.

California law protects the rights of voters who are in the hospital or other care facilities, or confined at home. It allows them to get help from anyone they choose — other than an employer or a union representative — so they can cast an emergency ballot.

At least 37 other states allow emergency voting for medical reasons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But practices vary.

In some states, only family members can assist hospitalized patients with voting from the hospital.

In California, New York and several other states, hospital employees and volunteers can help a patient complete an emergency ballot application. They can pick up the ballot for the patient and deliver the completed ballot back to the election office or deposit it in an official drop box.

In North Carolina, by contrast, it is a felony for a healthcare worker to assist a patient with voting.

In 18 states, the law allows local election boards to send representatives directly to patients’ bedsides, though six of those states have canceled that service this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Kelly Wong, founder of Patient Voting, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing turnout among registered voters who find themselves unexpectedly hospitalized around election time.

The group’s website features an interactive map of the United States with state-by-state information on voting while in the hospital. It also allows patients to check whether they are registered to vote.

Wong, an emergency room resident at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, recalled that when she was a medical student working in an ER, patients who were about to be admitted to the hospital would tell her, “‘I can’t be admitted; I have let

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Close to ‘exponential spread’ in some parts of the US, former FDA official says

The country is facing another cycle of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it may be the hardest yet, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.



a car parked on a city street filled with lots of traffic: People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)


© Cengiz Yar/Getty Images
People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)

“I think we’re right now at the cusp of what’s going to be exponential spread in parts of the country,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“If we took aggressive steps right now, we could potentially forestall the worst of it, but we’re not going to do that,” because there’s a lot of fatigue and “policy resistance to taking strong action,” he said.

“We really have two or three months of the acute phase of this pandemic to get through,” he said. “This is going to be the hardest phase, probably.”

Worst number of cases yet

That’s as the country continues to report the most number of cases we’ve seen to date. The seven-day average of daily new cases reached an all-time high of 68,767 on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The previous record of 67,293 was set July 22.

“Unfortunately, I think the statement about ‘new record’ is going to be repeated over and over again in the days and weeks to come,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

“I expect that those numbers will continue to climb. Hospitalizations are going to continue to climb.”

The abysmal week was marked by the two worst days of daily new cases reported since the pandemic began. More than 83,000 new cases were reported both Friday and Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins.

To be clear: This surge reflects an onslaught of new infections — not just increased testing, contrary to what skeptics claim.

“You know why we have cases? Because we test so much,” President Donald Trump claimed at a rally Saturday in North Carolina. “And in many ways, it’s good. And in many ways, it’s foolish.”

But the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has soared 23% in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins data. The seven-day average of new tests performed has risen only 2.87% over the past week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

And we are long past the point of just urban, heavily populated areas being the only places hit hard. South Dakota’s test positivity rate is 23%, the state’s health department said Monday. That means of every 100 people tested, 23 have been infected. The World Health Organization in May advised governments not to reopen until test positivity rates were 5% or lower for at least 14 days.

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Hospitals are full but some parts of Idaho refuse mask rules

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and looking at sending people as far away as Seattle for care, members of a regional health department board voted Thursday to repeal a local mask mandate.

“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.

The hospital in Coeur d’Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.

“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Lee said.


He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.

But the board voted 4-3 to end the mask mandate. Board members overseeing the operations of Idaho’s public health districts are appointed by county commissioners and not required to have any medical experience.

Board member Walt Kirby said he was giving up on the idea of controlling the spread of coronavirus.

“I personally do not care whether anybody wears a mask or not. If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” Kirby said. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway. … I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.”

Another member, Allen Banks, denied COVID-19 exists.

“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?’” he told the medical professionals who testified.

Similar scenes — with doctors and nurses asking officials for help, only to be met with reluctance or even open skepticism — have played out across the conservative state. Idaho is sixth in the nation for new coronavirus cases per capita, with the average number of confirmed cases increasing by more than 55% every day over the past two weeks.

Still, Republican Gov. Brad Little has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate or limit crowd sizes beyond requiring social distancing at large events and in businesses, which is seldom enforced. Instead, Little has left it up to local health departments and school districts to make the tough decisions that sometimes come with blowback from the public.

In the southern city of Twin Falls, hospital officials told health board members this week that they too were in danger of being overwhelmed, with one out of every four hospitalized patients sick with COVID-19. The region’s hospitals, operated by St. Luke’s Health System, have been forced to postpone non-emergency surgeries and ship patients elsewhere.

“I want to be very clear: Punting those decisions is saying

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