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Family of Texas pollworker who died from coronavirus thinks she caught it while working the election

A 70-year-old pollworker in Texas has died from the coronavirus. Her family believes she was infected while working the 2020 US election.

Patricia Perez spent nearly a month in an ICU in Texas after developing Covid-19.

WDHN ABC 18 reported that Ms Perez’s family was notified of her imminent end early last week. The week prior, on her 70th birthday, doctors told the family that they had exhausted all treatment options for Ms Perez, and advised the family to begin making preparations for her burial.

Adrianne Perez, Ms Perez’s daughter, said it had been “a tough road” and that it “definitely wasn’t her time.”

Ms Perez’s children said their mother barely left the house prior to the election, but that she refused to sit out the 2002 US election.

Working elections was a passion of Ms Perez’s. She spent years working the polls, and did not want to miss this year’s historical election.

They recalled their mother calling them, upset that another pollworker appeared to have come to work while showing symptoms of an illness.

“She was so upset,” Ms Perez’s daughter said. “She had noticed a guy was sick and had been blowing his nose, coughing.”  

Ms Perez said the worker had been wearing a mask, and that he decided to take a Covid-19 test. It came back positive.

Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County Clerk, said the worker was asked to go home after he reported feeling ill.

“The poll worker felt fine when they went to work that morning and felt fine until much later during the day and then began to feel just a little puny,” she said. “And immediately told people there… the poll worker just wasn’t feeling right, and everybody decided that that person should leave immediately and that is what happened.”

“Apparently she ended up sitting in the same chair as this person and was very concerned,” Mr Doggett said.

Ms DeBeauvoir said that contact tracing and quarantine steps were already being taken to address the employee when she received the call.

In response to the scare, Ms Perez went and got tested. Her first test came back negative, but a week later she began feeling sick and went for another test. This time it came back positive.

Ms Perez’s daughter, Jennifer Zapata, said her mother was concerned for the health of the voters the worker interacted with during her work.

“She said there was so many voters that came in contact with this man,” Ms Zapata said.

KXAN, a local news network, asked Ms DeBeauvoir why voters had not been notified that an individual working there had contracted coronavirus.

“All of our election workers always wear masks and practice social distancing,” she said. “So there’s no contact with voters that’s close enough or extended enough for them to be exposed.”

She noted that the CDC’s guidelines define exposure as being in close proximity of someone infected for at least 15 minutes.

Ms DeBeauvoir said there was no evidence suggesting any other pollworkers became ill from the pollworker.

“This is a horrible circumstance for us,” she said. “This is our poll worker, our employee that we just lost. We are devastated and we need to spend our time dealing with our loss and doing everything we can to help this family.”

The Perez family set up a GoFundMe page for Ms Perez’s funeral expenses and said they wanted to tell her story because they believe that’s what she would have wanted.

“Now, she doesn’t have a voice,” Adrianne Perez said. “And today we are being that voice for her.”