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Richmond Registrar’s Office Quarantining; Multiple Employees Test Positive for COVID-19

Registrar's office
Employees at the Richmond Registrar's are quarantining after two tested positive for COVID-19 on election day. (Photo: Jakob Cordes/VPM)

The Richmond Registrar says 90 percent of her office is now in quarantine, after three employees tested positive for COVID-19. 

The announcement comes the day before the Richmond Electoral Board is supposed to certify ballots. Kirk Showalter, the city registrar, said she anticipates the election figures will be finalized by tomorrow, but does not expect to be able to certify the remaining 975 provisional ballots by that deadline.

On Monday afternoon, Showalter told reporters that the remaining provisional ballots are not likely to change the results of  the mayoral or city council races.

“But keep in mind we still have to tabulate the late arriving absentee ballots that we got as of noon on Friday. We expect to have those results included tomorrow, so we will have a better idea of how far apart or how close people are,” she said.

The building was also “deep cleaned” for a second time after the cases were identified. 

Showalter said health officials expect that residents who came into the office on Saturday, Oct. 31, to vote early in-person, were likely not exposed, but recommends anyone who was in the building on Monday or Tuesday of last week get tested. 

While Showalter was not in contact with the employees who contracted COVID-19, she said she will voluntarily get tested this afternoon.

The office was busy last week as staff scrambled to count a record number of mail-in ballots and respond to complaints.

Amy Wentz, a candidate in the 8th District City Council race, reported errors in the vote count. Wentz, who lags behind incumbent Reva Trammell according to unofficial results, said her campaign counted the voters at each precinct - and the numbers don’t match up with what the state reported. 

“Ms. Wentz was absolutely correct,” Showalter said. “The figures weren’t as they should have been.”

But she noted the purpose of the canvass is to identify errors. 

“And those are being corrected,” Showalter said. “There were some other errors in other precincts that are less closely watched. And we are scrubbing through those numbers.”

Wentz responded to Showalter on Twitter saying “canvasses are to address minor issues in numbers, not thousands”.

Candidates are also now worried about their health and safety. 

Kelley Losier is the campaign manager for 2nd District City Council candidate Tavarris Spinks’. Spinks is currently leading in that race, against Katherine Jordan, by just 26 votes. 

“[Spinks] and I are both getting tested shortly,” Losier said. “And we encourage everyone that may have been in contact there to be tested, especially knowing sort of how much went on in that office last week.” 

A few hours after Monday’s press conference, Mayor Levar Stoney tweeted that a member of his campaign tested positive for COVID-19 after meeting with employees of the registrar’s office. The mayor and his staff are now self-isolating, which Stoney said was the “safe, responsible thing to do while the Richmond City Health District traces exposures stemming from the registrar’s office.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated at 5:07 p.m. Monday with more details from the press conference and follow up interviews with city council campaign staff members. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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