Drive-through voting offered to people in isolation because of N.L. COVID-19 outbreak
Published Wednesday, February 10, 2021 6:28AM AST Last Updated Wednesday, February 10, 2021 5:05PM AST
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Voters in Newfoundland and Labrador's capital city who are isolating in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak will be able to cast a ballot from their car during Saturday's provincial election.
Elections NL said Wednesday it will set up a drive-through voting site in St. John's for people who have been asked by public health to isolate. The set-up will be similar to a drive-through COVID-19 testing site, the elections authority said in a news release.
The authority also said it shut down a district voting bureau within the St. John's metro area because of a COVID-19 exposure, and it warned of another potential exposure from Saturday at an advance polling station just outside the capital.
Health officials reported the province's highest, single-day case count on Wednesday: 53 new infections and 32 presumptive positive cases. Officials have been steadily implementing stricter public health measures in the metro region all week, and on Wednesday ordered the closure of all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools.
Saturday's election, however, is still a go. "We will make the election happen safely," Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, told reporters on Wednesday. She added there are "upwards of 1,500" people in isolation as a result of the ongoing outbreak in St. John's.
Progressive Conservative candidate Damian Follett, running in the Mount Scio district in St. John's, said in a news release Tuesday that he and his family are isolating after his son tested positive for COVID-19. "All in-person contact with residents has been suspended and Damian and his team will continue to reach out by other means," the release said.
The timing of the election call has been contentious and the escalating COVID-19 case count has only exacerbated concerns. A number of St. John's-based community groups are urging authorities to postpone election day. The NDP and Progressive Conservatives have said Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey should have waited until more people in the province had been vaccinated to call an election.
On Wednesday, Furey was forced once again to defend his decision to send voters to the polls in February. "The decision to call the election was made when we were in very low numbers," Furey said. "We made the decision with the evidence that was available to us at the time."
He said he trusts election authorities to implement public health measures that will keep voters safe.
According to provincial legislation, Furey had to call an election before Aug. 19, 2021, which is the one-year anniversary of his swearing-in as Liberal party leader and premier.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.