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In Midwest Battlegrounds, the Virus Met Another Concern: the Economy


“I’m not as afraid of Covid as I am of a bad economy,” said Ish Soltay, 51, of Avon Lake, a suburb west of Cleveland. His county, Lorain, which was once reliably Democratic, went for Hillary Clinton by 131 votes in 2016. On Tuesday, it appeared to surge further right, flipping to Mr. Trump, according to preliminary vote tallies.

Mr. Soltay, a retired critical care nurse who now sells portable oxygen machines, said he had been personally affected by the coronavirus, which infected his son and chipped away at his paychecks in medical sales. But his support for the president was stronger now than it was four years ago, he said, and on the day before the election, Mr. Soltay took a day off work to make his views known near an appearance by Mr. Biden in Cleveland, two Trump flags waving from the roof of his car.

“In the beginning, March, April, May time frame, I would say corona was a bigger issue for me,” said Mr. Soltay, who said he locked down inside his house in the spring, leaving to go to the grocery store and changing his clothes afterward. “By the time I was voting, if I had to rank them, economy was one to me.”

In the Midwest, coronavirus cases have surged dangerously and hospitals have neared capacity in recent days, leaving voters with even more reason to send a message about the pandemic. Even as coronavirus cases rose in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, closely related issues — the economy and shutdowns — were top of mind.

Twelve states around the Midwest added more cases in the seven-day period ending Tuesday than in any other week of the pandemic, a sign of the rapidly devolving situation in the center of the country as infections and hospitalizations continue to spike.

The situation is especially volatile in Wisconsin, which has for weeks been adding cases at one of the highest rates in the country. More than 35,000 infections have been identified over the last week, the most in any seven-day stretch of the pandemic. As of Wednesday morning, seven of the 20 American metropolitan areas with the most cases per capita in recent days were in Wisconsin.

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