Accused Colorado supermarket shooter deemed mentally incompetent

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) -Psychologists who evaluated a 22-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Colorado grocery store in March have found him incompetent to stand trial, but prosecutors are seeking a second mental health evaluation, court records showed on Monday.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, and dozens of attempted murder and related charges stemming from the March 22 rampage at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, about 28 miles northwest of Denver.

Prosecutors allege Alissa stormed the supermarket and opened fire with a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic pistol that he had legally purchased six days before the rampage.

Among those killed was a responding Boulder policeman.

Alissa has been held without bond since his arrest, and last month a judge ordered that he undergo a competency evaluation.

The report by the two court-appointed psychologists has not been released, but their conclusions were set out in a motion filed by prosecutors for a second examination, to which defense lawyers object.

In their motion, prosecutors argued that the initial evaluation showed Alissa is aware of his legal predicament.

“Defendant indicates an understanding of his charges, the potential sentence, the roles of the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney,” the prosecution motion said.

In objecting to the prosecution request, defense attorneys said Alissa mistakenly believes he could be executed if found guilty.

“The death penalty is not a potential sentence in this case, and the report reflects his (Alissa’s) fixation on that as a sentence,” the defense motion said.

Under Colorado law, a judge is required to conduct a competency hearing before ruling on whether a defendant is mentally fit to stand trial.

The judge has not ruled on the prosecution request, though the issue will likely be argued during an Oct. 14 competency review hearing.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Grebler and Alistair Bell)

Colorado police officers, paramedics charged in 2019 death of Black man

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) -Three Colorado police officers and two paramedics have been criminally charged in the death of Elijah McClain, a Black man who died in 2019 after he was subdued and injected with a sedative, the state attorney general said on Wednesday.

McClain, 23, was confronted by police in the Denver suburb of Aurora as he was walking home from a convenience store on reports he was acting suspiciously, although he was not suspected of a crime.

Police placed McClain in a carotid neck hold and was later injected by paramedics with ketamine, a powerful sedative. He went into cardiac arrest and died days later at a hospital.

A state grand jury handed up a 32-count indictment, including manslaughter and assault charges, Attorney General Phil Weiser said at a news conference.

The case drew national attention after George Floyd, a Black man, died in May 2020 when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. The case, which resulted in a murder conviction and a 22 1/2-year sentence for Derek Chauvin, galvanized a protest movement against the unjustified deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement.

“Nothing will bring back my son, but I am thankful that his killers will finally be held accountable,” McClain’s father, LaWayne Mosley, said in a statement after the announcement of the indictments.

(Reporting By Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)

U.S. West faces little-known effect of raging wildfires: contaminated water

By Donna Bryson

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) – Early this spring, water bills arrived with notes urging Fort Collins Utilities customers to conserve. The Colorado customers may have thought the issue was persistent drought in the U.S. West.

But the problem was not the quantity of water available. It was the quality.

Utilities are increasingly paying attention to a little-known impact of large-scale fires: water contamination.

Huge forest fires last year denuded vast areas of Colorado’s mountains and left them covered in ash – ash that with sediment has since been washed by rains into the Cache la Poudre River. The river is one of two sources for household water in this college town of 165,000. With more and fiercer storms expected this year, officials worry about water quality worsening beyond what treatment systems can handle.

The problem could apply to watersheds across the U.S. West, which has faced ever-increasing extremes in heat, drought and wildfire amid climate change in recent years. The United States relies on water originating on forested land for about 80% of its freshwater supply, according to a government report.

“If a wildfire is not in my watershed, it will be in someone else’s watershed,” said Sean Chambers, director of water and sewer in the nearby northern Colorado town of Greeley.

So far, Chambers and other northern Colorado utilities managers have avoided clogged pipes simply by skipping the Cache la Poudre water and using other supplies. But they worry that’s not a long-term solution, and so they sent out those notes pleading with customers to voluntarily conserve: Water lawns sparingly. Don’t let the hose run on the sidewalk when washing your car.

THE COST OF WATER

Corporate headhunter Jim Croxton moved to Fort Collins so he could take in the mountain scenery while fishing.

“I really don’t care about how big the fish are,” Croxton said after buying a half dozen flies at a Fort Collins fishing and guide shop. “I just like to be out in” nature.

He had considered drought to be the West’s water concern. But the utility’s letter urging conservation struck a chord; he had read about polluting fires affecting recreational fishing, too.

“Water in the West is a central issue,” Croxton said.

Fort Collins water rates rose 2% from January. That works out to less than $1 per month for the typical home, and generates about $600,000 toward covering an estimated $45 million in potential fire-related measures, according to calculations prepared for Fort Collins City Council.

Those measures include laying mulch on burn scars to hold down soil, and funding further fire impact research. To make up the balance, officials in Fort Collins, Greeley and other communities are pooling resources and seeking state and federal help.

Katrina Jessoe is an economist at UC Davis who has advised utilities on seeking funding to decontaminate water supplies from pollutants such as fertilizers.

“You can’t get around the fact that the cost of water is getting higher,” which could be a concern for low- and middle-income earners, Jessoe said.

Water managers say they need also to explore new ways of raising funds and making capital improvements to deal with fire-related contamination, for example, removing tastes and odors left by algae fed by nutrients in the sediments washed into reservoirs. The tastes and odors don’t mean the water is unsafe, but customers don’t like it.

Water managers are “making decisions right now that will affect whether or not this is a livable place in 50 years, 100 years,” said John Matthews, who heads the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, a nonprofit that advises on adapting water systems for climate change.

UNPRECEDENTED FIRES

The two fires that have marred the watersheds relied on by Fort Collins, Greeley, Thornton and other towns were notable not just for the devastation they caused, but for having burned at such high elevation.

“We really don’t understand these high-elevation fires very well, because they haven’t happened very often,” said Matt Ross, an ecosystem scientist at Colorado State University who is studying how last year’s fires are impacting algae blooms now.

The Cameron Peak Fire broke out in August and was the first in Colorado history to consume more than 200,000 acres, including swathes of the Arapahoe and Roosevelt national forests and Rocky Mountain National Park. The East Troublesome came close, burning 193,812 acres across the Continental Divide.

In both cases, flames tore through forests where rivers originate and where snowpack – that frozen reservoir – builds up over winter.

Given the large region burned, researchers need to understand how long it will take for vegetation to grow back, so it can keep sediment from washing into water sources, said biogeochemist Chuck Rhoades at the U.S. Forest Service.

“The implications are that people need to think a little bit more about how to manage and sustain reservoirs,” Rhoades said.

(Reporting by Donna Bryson; Editing by Katy Daigle and Lisa Shumaker)

Suspected Colorado supermarket shooter appears in court, faces more charges

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A 22-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Colorado grocery store in March made a brief court appearance on Tuesday, a day after prosecutors added dozens of new charges stemming from the rampage.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa now faces 115 charges related to the March 22 mass shooting at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, about 28 miles northwest of Denver.

He previously was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and more than 30 counts of attempted murder, among other offenses.

On Tuesday, Boulder County District Court Judge Ingrid Bakke set a September 7 date for a preliminary hearing, when prosecutors will lay out their evidence and Bakke will decide if it is sufficient to move ahead with the case.

On Monday, prosecutors added dozens of new counts of attempted murder, weapons, and assault charges.

District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a written statement that investigators have identified other victims, leading to the additional charges.

“Based on developments in the ongoing investigation, the District Attorney’s Office has determined that additional crimes and sentence enhancers must be charged in this matter,” Dougherty said.

The state public defender’s office, which represents Alissa, does not comment on its cases outside of court, but at an earlier hearing a defense lawyer said Alissa has a “mental illness.”

If convicted of first-degree murder, Alissa faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors allege Alissa opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol that he had legally purchased. He surrendered after he was wounded by police during an exchange of gunfire.

Prosecutors said they have not yet determined a possible motive for the attack.

Alissa, who has not entered a plea, is being held without bond at an undisclosed lockup.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Boulder shooting suspect held without bail while he undergoes mental health assessment

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A judge in Boulder, Colorado, on Thursday ordered a 21-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a supermarket to be held without bail while he undergoes a mental health assessment requested by his lawyers.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa faces 10 counts of murder and an attempted murder charge stemming from the rampage on Monday at King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, some 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Denver.

Appearing at a hearing in Boulder County court, Alissa affirmed that he understood his rights under the law and understood that he would be held without bail, as ordered by Judge Thomas Mulvahill.

Prosecutors may file additional charges against Alissa in the coming weeks, District Attorney Michael Dougherty told the judge.

Defense lawyers for Alissa requested that the suspect undergo a full mental health assessment, which would likely push back his preliminary court hearing by a couple of months. Alissa waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days to allow time for that assessment.

“We cannot do anything until we are able to fully assess Mr. Alissa’s mental illness,” said Kathryn Herold, a defense attorney for Alissa. Herold’s previous clients include a Colorado man who pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters in 2018.

Another public defender representing Alissa, Daniel King, defended the gunman who killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012.

The bloodshed at King Soopers was the nation’s second mass shooting in less than a week, after a gunman fatally shot eight people at three Atlanta-area day spas on March 16.

The two attacks have reignited a national debate over gun rights and prompted President Joe Biden to call for new legislation from Congress. A bill intended to impose stricter background checks and ban certain types of semi-automatic rifles has stalled amid Republican opposition.

On Monday afternoon, Alissa arrived at the grocery store carrying a handgun and wearing a tactical vest, according to an affidavit. Six days earlier, he had purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol, a weapon that resembles a semi-automatic rifle, the affidavit said.

The supermarket, still a closed-off crime scene, has turned into a memorial site, with people leaving flowers, candles and condolence messages outside. Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver told CNN on Thursday that the city was looking into creating a more permanent memorial nearby.

Among the victims were store employees, a grandfather-to-be and a Boulder policeman who was first on the scene. The attacks terrorized the community and felt all too familiar in a state that has experienced some of the most shocking episodes of gun violence in U.S. history.

Darcey Lopez, a King Soopers employee who hid in a cabinet beneath the cheese-wrapping station in the store when the gunman opened fire on Monday, is still reeling from the horror she lived through.

“I still hear the gunshots in the store – it’s just something that kept playing over and over in my mind for about the first 24 hours. Now it’s at night. It’s really bad at night,” Lopez said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman, Gabriella Borter, Maria Caspani, Sharon Bernstein, Nathan Layne and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Latest U.S. mass shooting puts pressure on Biden to secure new gun laws

By Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The second deadly U.S. mass shooting in a week is putting new pressure on President Joe Biden to deliver on the gun control promises he made as a candidate.

A gunman on Monday killed 10 people, including a police officer, at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, just six days after another gunman fatally shot eight people at Atlanta-area day spas.

“I don’t need to wait another minute – let alone an hour – to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future, and I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said at the White House on Tuesday.

The Democratic president called on the Senate to approve two bills passed by the House of Representatives on March 11 that would broaden background checks for gun buyers. In addition, Biden also called for a ban on assault-style weapons.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Biden also is “considering a range” of executive actions to address gun violence. Such actions would not require congressional approval.

Biden, who took office in January, faces an uphill battle in winning congressional passage of gun-related measures he pledged during his presidential campaign.

The United States has the world’s highest rate of civilian gun ownership, RAND Corp research shows. There were more than 43,000 U.S. gun deaths last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, in a country with a gun fatality rate consistently higher than other rich nations.

“I’ve beaten the National Rifle Association nationally twice, passed meaningful gun legislation at the federal level, and I’ll do it again,” Biden said last year at one of several campaign events focused on firearms violence, referring to the Republican-aligned NRA gun rights group.

“As president, I promise you I will get these weapons of war off the street again,” Biden added, referring to a national ban on assault-style weapons that lapsed in 2004.

CONGRESSIONAL ACTION

The numerous U.S. mass shootings have failed to prompt lawmakers to pass gun control legislation, thanks in large part to opposition from congressional Republicans and the NRA. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and many Americans cherish gun rights.

Still, nearly 70% of Americans support adding “strong or moderate” federal gun restrictions, and ideas such as background checks and databases to track ownership have even greater public support, a 2019 Reuters poll found.

Biden’s fellow Democrats hold slim majorities in the House and Senate. Most bills require 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to move forward, a tough hurdle for gun control legislation considering that Republicans hold 50 of those seats.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a swing vote who holds near veto power over his party’s Senate agenda because of its razor-thin majority in the chamber, told reporters he does not support the House bills. Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey instead favor their own bill, which would allow private sales of firearms without a background check.

Background checks are conducted to review a buyer’s criminal and mental health history and other factors that could bar someone from buying a gun.

A Senate panel held a hearing on gun issues on Tuesday.

“This is not and should not be a partisan issue,” Biden said. “It will save lives – American lives – and we have to act.”

Any new gun control measures signed by Biden would almost certainly face a legal challenge that could reach the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority is seen as sympathetic to an expansive view of gun rights.

Biden has long embraced gun control. As a candidate, Biden pledged to hold gun makers accountable in the courts for firearms violence, to sign new laws restricting assault weapons and to expand background checks for gun sales.

As vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden was instrumental in seeking congressional approval of legislation after a 2012 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

After fierce NRA lobbying, Senate Republicans in 2013 thwarted legislation that would expand background checks, ban assault-style weapons and bar high-capacity gun magazines. The NRA since then has encountered internal upheaval and legal challenges.

Gun control activists have urged Biden to take executive action on matters they have said he can address unilaterally.

These activists have proposed that Biden direct the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to block the sale of self-assembled “ghost guns” without background checks or serial numbers to identify the finished product. They also urged Biden to name a permanent director of that bureau, which currently is led by an interim chief.

Gun control activists have been holding virtual meetings with senior White House aides Susan Rice and Cedric Richmond. These sessions have been focused on soliciting views rather than outlining policy action, according to people who attended, speaking on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, David Morgan, Jeff Mason, Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland in Washington, Nandita Bose on board Air Force One and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Heather Timmons and Will Dunham)

Factbox: Results of high-profile U.S. House of Representatives races

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats were projected to retain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday’s election, but appeared to have failed in their goal of wresting more seats from Republicans.

Results were still coming in on Wednesday, but Democrats lost several of the most closely watched contests in sharp contrast to their convincing win in 2018.

Here are some of the most high-profile races in the 435-member House:

MINNESOTA’S 7TH DISTRICT

Long-time Representative Collin Peterson, one of only two House Democrats who opposed both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in 2019, was defeated by Minnesota’s former lieutenant governor, Republican Michelle Fischbach. The district in rural western Minnesota voted strongly for Trump in 2016.

SOUTH CAROLINA’S 1ST DISTRICT

Representative Joe Cunningham, who stunned Republicans in 2018 when he became the first Democrat to represent the coastal district in nearly four decades, lost to Republican Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of the Citadel military college.

GEORGIA’S 14th DISTRICT

Republican small business owner Marjorie Taylor Greene is a political newcomer who promoted online conspiracy theory QAnon in a 2017 video but later backtracked, saying it was not part of her campaign. She won a House seat in conservative rural northwest Georgia after her Democratic opponent dropped out.

TEXAS’ 21ST DISTRICT

Republican Representative Chip Roy defeated Wendy Davis, a Democratic former state senator who caught the national spotlight in 2013 by talking for over 11 hours to temporarily stop an anti-abortion bill. The central Texas district includes part of Austin.

NEW MEXICO’S 2ND DISTRICT

Freshman Democratic Representative Xochtil Torres-Small lost a rematch with Republican Yvette Herrell, who had been the loser two years ago and was endorsed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus’ political action committee. The district covers southern New Mexico including part of Albuquerque.

COLORADO’S 3RD DISTRICT

Republican Lauren Boebert, a pistol-packing gun rights activist who defied coronavirus restrictions to open her restaurant, spoke warmly of QAnon in May, but later said “I’m not a follower.” She defeated Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a university professor, in a largely rural district encompassing western Colorado.

These races remain undecided:

NEW JERSEY’S 2ND DISTRICT

Representative Jeff Van Drew, who was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2018 but became a Republican after voting against impeaching Trump, faces a strong challenge from Democrat Amy Kennedy. She is a former schoolteacher who married into the famous U.S. political family. The district in southern New Jersey includes Atlantic City.

NEW YORK’S 2ND DISTRICT

Republican New York State legislator Andrew Garbarino is running against a Black combat veteran, Democrat Jackie Gordon, for the seat held for 14 terms by retiring Republican Representative Peter King. The largely suburban district on Long Island includes the eastern edges of the New York City metropolitan area.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Mary Milliken)

‘Lightning siege’ sparks wildfires across California wine country

By Steven Lam

VACAVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – Dozens of lightning-sparked wildfires caused thousands of evacuations in Northern California’s wine country on Wednesday, and Colorado battled its second-largest fire ever as a heat wave supercharged blazes across the U.S. West.

A group of fires in Northern California covering over 46,000 acres (18,615 hectares) has destroyed at least 50 structures in a hill and mountain area near Vacaville in Solano County, authorities said.

The city of 100,000, about 30 miles southwest of Sacramento, was under a partial evacuation order after flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fire raced through homesteads and ranches on its west flank. Social media videos showed a number of houses on fire, and residents were forced to flee their homes during the night.

The blazes follow devastating fires across Northern California in 2017 that killed 44, wiped out numerous wineries and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and other structures.

“In the last 72 hours we’ve experienced an historic lightning siege with 10,849 strikes causing more than 367 new fires,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Lynnette Round.

So-called red flag high winds are fanning flames caused by the lightning in scrub and woodland parched by record-breaking heat and low humidity.

Another group of fires called the SCU Lightning Complex more than doubled in size overnight, and is now burning over 85,000 acres, while the CZU August Lightning Complex has grown to over 10,000 acres and forced evacuations in Santa Cruz County.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Tuesday and California requested 375 fire engines from out of state to fight the blazes.

To the east, at least four large wildfires burned in drought-stricken Colorado. The state’s Pine Gulch Fire grew to over 125,000 acres overnight to become the second largest in Colorado’s history, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. The fire remains at 7% containment, according to the InciWeb fire data site.

(Reporting by Steven Lam, additional reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Steve Orlofsky and Andrea Ricci)

15 U.S. states to jointly work to advance electric heavy-duty trucks

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday unveiled a joint memorandum of understanding aimed at boosting the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and phasing out diesel-powered trucks by 2050.

The announcement comes weeks after the California Air Resources Board approved a groundbreaking policy to require manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024 and to electrify nearly all larger trucks by 2045.

The 14 states said the voluntary initiative is aimed at boosting the number of electric large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks, with the goal of ensuring all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2050 with a target of 30% ZEV sales by 2030.

The states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont.

The states committed to developing a plan within six months to identify barriers and propose solutions to support widespread electrification, including potential financial incentives and ways to boost EV infrastructure.

Trucks and buses represent 4% of U.S. vehicles, but account for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

California’s mandate will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035. California’s planned rules will initially require 5%-9% ZEVs based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030 and nearly all by 2045.

The push comes as a rising number of companies – including Rivian, Tesla Inc., Nikola Corp., and General Motors work to introduce zero emission trucks.

Major businesses like Amazon.com, UPS and Walmart have also said they are ramping up purchases of electric delivery trucks.

California later plans to adopt new limits on nitrogen oxide emissions, one of the major precursors of smog, as well as require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Hogue)

U.S. states from Minnesota to Mississippi to reopen despite health warnings

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. states from Minnesota to Mississippi this week prepared to join other states that have eased coronavirus restrictions to try to revive their battered economies, although some business owners voiced reluctance in the face of health warnings.

Colorado, Montana and Tennessee were also set to allow some businesses deemed nonessential to reopen after being shut for weeks even as health experts advocated for more diagnostic testing to ensure safety.

Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina previously restarted their economies following weeks of mandatory lockdowns that have thrown millions of American workers out of their jobs.

The number of known U.S. infections kept climbing on Monday, topping 970,000 as the number of lives lost to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus, surpassed 54,800.

Public health authorities warn that increasing human interactions and economic activity may spark a new surge of infections just as social-distancing measures appear to be bringing coronavirus outbreaks under control.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a Twitter message late on Sunday that he would announce a roadmap for “responsibly reopening” the state at a Noon ET (1600 GMT) news conference on Monday.

Although unprecedented stay-at-home orders have put many businesses in jeopardy, many owners have expressed ambivalence about returning to work without more safeguards.

‘I WOULD STAY HOME’

“I would stay home if the government encouraged that, but they’re not. They’re saying, ‘Hey, the best thing to do is go back to work, even though it might be risky,’” Royal Rose, 39, owner of a tattoo studio in Greeley, Colorado, told Reuters.

The state’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis, has given the green light for retail curbside pickup to begin on Monday. Hair salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors may open on Friday, with retail stores, restaurants and movie theaters to follow.

Business shutdowns have led to a record 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since mid-March and the White House has forecast a staggering jump in the nation’s monthly jobless rate.

President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters on Sunday the jobless rate would likely hit 16% or more in April, and that “the next couple of months are going to look terrible.”

On Monday, White House adviser Peter Navarro said the Trump administration is focusing on protocols to keep U.S. factories open as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, including screening workers for potential cases.

“You’re going to have to reconfigure factories,” Navarro told Fox News. “You’re going to have to use things like thermoscanners to check fever as they come in.”

Trump was scheduled to hold a video call with the country’s governors on Monday afternoon before the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing.

The rise in the number of U.S. cases has been attributed in part to increased diagnostic screening. But health authorities also warn that testing and contact tracing must be vastly expanded before shuttered businesses can safely reopen widely.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Nicholas Brown and Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Maria Caspani; Editing by Howard Goller)