Biden visits tornado-stricken Kentucky bringing federal aid, empathy

By Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden flew to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey the areas hardest hit by one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in recent U.S. history, a system that killed at least 74 people in the state and at least 14 elsewhere.

Biden, no stranger to tragic personal losses, will reprise his familiar role as consoler in chief, while promising to bring the might of the federal government to rebuild devastated communities that suffered billions of dollars in damage.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear offered a grim update on Tuesday, saying the dead included a dozen children, the youngest of whom was a 2-month-old infant. He added that he expected the death toll to rise in the coming days, with more than 100 still missing.

Biden will visit the Army installation at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for a briefing on the storm before continuing on to Mayfield and Dawson Springs, two towns separated by roughly 70 miles (112 km) that were largely flattened by the twisters.

The president will be “surveying storm damage firsthand, (and) making sure that we’re doing everything to deliver assistance as quickly as possible in impacted areas to support recovery efforts,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent search-and-rescue and emergency response teams to Kentucky, along with teams to help survivors register for assistance, Psaki said.

FEMA has also sent dozens of generators into the state, along with 135,000 gallons (511,000 litres) of water, 74,000 meals and thousands of cots, blankets, infant toddler kits and pandemic shelter kits.

Biden has approved federal disaster declarations for Kentucky and the neighboring states of Tennessee and Illinois, offering residents and local officials increased federal aid.

Credit ratings agency DBRS Morningstar said the tornadoes were likely the most severe in the United States since 2011. Insurers are sufficiently prepared to cover claims without significant capital impact, it said in a report.

The trip marks one of the few that Biden, a Democrat, has taken to areas that tilt heavily toward the Republican Party, many of whose voters and leaders have embraced Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims that he won the 2020 election. The White House has been careful not to bring politics into the disaster relief efforts, including not focusing on what role, if any, climate change may have played in the tragic events.

“He looks at them as human beings, not as people who have partisan affiliations,” Psaki said. “And in his heart, he has empathy for everything that they’re going through.”

“The message he will send to them directly and clearly tomorrow is: ‘We’re here to help, we want to rebuild, we are going to stand by your side and we’re going to help your leaders do exactly that,'” she added.

Biden lost his first wife and daughter in a 1972 car crash, and his older son, Beau, died in 2015 after a fight with brain cancer.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw, additional reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Heather Timmons, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

‘Desperate for tires’ Components shortage roils U.S. harvest

By P.J. Huffstutter and Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Dale Hadden cannot find any spare tires for his combine harvester. So the Illinois farmer told his harvest crew to avoid driving on the sides of roads this autumn to avoid metal scraps that could shred tires.

New Ag Supply in Kansas is pleading with customers to order parts now for spring planting. And in Iowa, farmer Cordt Holub is locking up his machinery inside his barn each night, after thieves stole hard-to-find tractor parts from a local Deere & Co dealership.

“You try to baby your equipment, but we’re all at the mercy of luck right now,” said Holub, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer in Buckingham, Iowa.

Manufacturing meltdowns are hitting the U.S. heartland, as the semiconductor shortages that have plagued equipment makers for months expand into other components. Supply chain woes now pose a threat to the U.S. food supply and farmers’ ability to get crops out of fields.

Farmers say they are scrambling to find workarounds when their machinery breaks, tracking down local welders and mechanics. Growers looking to buy tractors and combines online are asking for close-up photos of the machine’s tires, because replacements are expensive and difficult to find, said Greg Peterson, founder of the Machinery Pete website which hosts farm equipment auctions.

“As harvest ends, we will see farmers at equipment auctions not for the machinery – but for parts,” Peterson said. “We’re already hearing from guys talking about buying a second planter or sprayer, just for parts.”

For some farmers, the shortages are forcing them to reuse – or repair – old parts.

At their small welding shop in western Washington, Rami and Bob Warburton can barely keep up with all the orders from farmers needing something repaired from fittings for irrigation systems to a cracked bulldozer bucket.

“We were in the middle of a drought up here,” Rami Warburton said. “At that time, they couldn’t wait to water their fields for a month. The crops will be dead by then.”

‘TYLENOL MOMENTS’

Kinks in the supply chain due to COVID-19 shutdowns in manufacturing hubs in the United States and Asia, a container shortage snarling major ports, and a dearth of workers prevent equipment manufacturers from fully cashing in on a lucrative moment, when grain prices have soared to the highest in nearly a decade.

The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, a monthly measure of farmer economic sentiment, fell 10% to its lowest level since July 2020 in early October. Supply concerns are weighing heavily on growers, with 55% of farmers surveyed saying that low inventories have affected their plans to buy machinery.

Access to steel, plastic, rubber and other raw materials has been scarce during the pandemic, and manufacturers are preparing for even more shocks after power shortages forced several Chinese smelters to cut production in recent weeks.

When executives from farm machinery maker AGCO Corp visited Midwest suppliers this summer, they found some companies were operating at only 60% staffing levels, said Greg Toornman, who oversees AGCO’s global supply chain management.

Toornman said staff levels are dropping at some suppliers in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Texas, as workers object to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, drop out of the workforce for fear of getting COVID-19 or move to other jobs.

“It’s the perfect storm of Tylenol moments,” Toornman said. “It’s one headache after another.”

The supply squeeze has put particular pressure on equipment dealerships, who typically see their service business boom during the traditional September through November harvest season.

This year, some have resorted to sifting through decade-old inventory for solutions. One pain point for dealerships is an industry-wide shortage of GPS receivers, which are used to run tractor guidance and data systems.

At Ag-Pro, the largest privately-owned Deere & Co dealership in North America, staff in Ohio have been digging out GPS units that date back to 2004. Until now, they were essentially worthless.

But producers can still use them to record a digital harvest map of their farms – something many need when talking to their bankers, landlords and crop insurance agents.

COMPONENTS TRIAGE

Equipment manufacturers are faced with a painful choice this harvest season: Send parts to factories to build new tractors and combines to sell to farmers or redirect those parts into the field to repair broken equipment for existing customers?

For AGCO and rival manufacturer CNH Industrial N.V., the answer is the latter.

“You can’t afford not to support those customers in the field,” AGCO’s Toornman said. “When you’re harvesting, timing is everything.”

CNH estimates that supply chain constraints ranging from increases in freight to higher raw materials prices have cost the company $1 billion.

That lag has forced the company to turn some factory parking lots into storage lots. At CNH’s combine plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, hundreds of unfinished combines sit outside, waiting for parts.

Meanwhile, CNH is redirecting components that can be used on its Case IH and New Holland equipment to customers in the field, a company representative said.

CNH has been signaling to dealers that supply chain problems and parts shortages for Case IH farm equipment are ongoing, according to Reuters interviews with six dealers. The manufacturer said in a statement it is meeting customer needs “the best we can given these unprecedented challenges.”

Deere said it is reorganizing shipping containers to make more room for goods, leasing extra cranes to expedite unloading ships at ports, and expanding its trucking fleet.

But component shortages are “particularly challenging for farmers facing what is already a short window of time to harvest,” said Luke Gakstatter, senior vice president of Deere’s aftermarket and customer support.

In some cases, the company has delivered unfinished machinery to customers. Missouri farmer Andy Kapp’s brand new combine rolled off the assembly line missing some of the high-tech cameras that help provide the very efficiency he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for.

But he is using it anyway, and even has stocked up on some extra parts, in case the combine breaks down.

“As you get toward the end of harvest, machinery and people get more tired,” Kapp said. “It’s a new machine. It won’t surprise us if there are a few loose bolts.”

(Reporting By P.J. Huffstutter and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; additional reporting by Dane Rhys in Monroeville, Ohio; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Marguerita Choy)

Illinois becomes first U.S. state to require Asian-American history in schools

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill on Friday requiring public schools to teach Asian-American history, the first such step by a U.S. state amid rising concerns about violence against people of Asian descent.

The bill mandates the teaching of a unit of Asian-American history in public elementary and high schools starting in the 2022-2023 school year.

“We are setting a new standard for what it means to truly reckon with our history,” said Pritzker, who signed the legislation into law at a high school in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago.

Educating children about the contributions of Asian Americans in U.S. history would help curb the proliferation of false stereotypes and discrimination, the Democrat governor said.

Led by advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago, supporters had been promoting the bill since early 2020. But it gained traction in the state legislature following the deadly attacks on Asian women in the Atlanta area in March.

Many Asian communities have been on edge amid a wave of violent incidents targeting them following lockdowns to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act says the curriculum should include teaching of the efforts made by Asian Americans to advance civil rights, as well as their contributions to the arts and sciences and to the economic and cultural development of the country.

Grace Pai, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago, said the bill would benefit the more than 100,000 Asian American students from kindergarten through high school in Illinois.

“So many students don’t get a chance to learn about the contributions of their communities or the migration stories of their families, contributing to feelings of being ‘othered’,” Pai said in a statement.

(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases

By Mrinalika Roy

(Reuters) -At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a large new government study showed, pointing to the presence of the virus in the country as early as December 2019.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Of the seven samples, three were from Illinois, where the first confirmed coronavirus case was reported on Jan. 24, while the remaining four states had one case each. Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8.

The data suggests that the coronavirus was circulating in U.S. states far from the initial hotspots and areas that were considered the virus’ points of entry into the country, the study noted.

The data also backs a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the virus may have been circulating in the United States well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The United States has so far reported 33.6 million cases, according to a Reuters tally.

The infections were confirmed using two antibody tests, which were granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

U.S. weekly jobless claims hit one-year low; fourth-quarter GDP revised up

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a one-year low last week as economic activity rebounds after weather-related disruptions in February.

But the labor market is not out of the woods yet, with the weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department on Thursday showing a staggering 18.953 million people were still receiving unemployment checks in early March. It will likely take years for a full recovery from the pandemic’s scarring.

“Things have improved over the last year, but there are still millions of people dealing with real economic pain,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. “Increased vaccinations are hopefully the beginning of the end.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits tumbled 97,000 to a seasonally adjusted 684,000 for the week ended March 20, the lowest level since mid-March. Data for the prior week was revised to show 11,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 730,000 applications in the latest week. The decline in claims was led by Ohio, which has been dogged by fraudulent filings. There were also large decreases in California and Illinois.

Claims shot up in the second week of March, likely as backlogs after severe winter storms in Texas and other parts of the densely populated South region were processed.

The deep freeze in the second half of February, which also gripped other parts of the country, depressed retail sales, homebuilding, production at factories, orders and shipments of manufactured goods last month.

Warmer weather, the White House’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic rescue package and increased vaccinations are expected to boost activity in March. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell struck an optimistic note on the economy at an appearance before lawmakers this week.

U.S. stocks opened lower. The dollar rose against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices were higher.

CORPORATE PROFITS FALL

But the massive fiscal stimulus, which extended government-funded unemployment aid, including a $300 weekly supplement, through Sept. 6, could keep claims elevated as some people reapply for benefits. Rampant fraud has also pushed filings higher. Claims surged to a record 6.867 million in March 2020.

Just over a year after the pandemic barreled across the United States, jobless claims remain above their 665,000 peak during the 2007-09 Great Recession. In a healthy labor market, claims are normally in a 200,000 to 250,000 range.

Employment is 9.5 million jobs below its peak in February 2020. Economists say it could take at least two years for the economy to recover all the 22.4 million jobs lost in March and April last year.

It could even take longer for the labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, to rebound significantly. The participation rate is near a 47-year low, with women accounting for the biggest share of dropouts.

The claims report also showed that people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 264,000 to 3.870 million in the week ended March 13. But the decline in the so-called continuing claims was partly due to people exhausting their eligibility for benefits, limited to 26 weeks in most states.

At least 5.551 million people were on extended benefits during the week ended March 6, up 734,692 from the prior period. Another 1.068 million were on a state program for those who have exhausted their initial six months of aid.

The government also confirmed on Thursday that the economy lost considerable momentum at the end of last year amid a flare- up in new coronavirus infections and delays in providing more fiscal stimulus.

Gross domestic product increased at a 4.3% annualized rate, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate of fourth-quarter GDP growth. That was up from the 4.1% pace reported last month but a sharp deceleration from the record 33.4% rate logged in the third quarter.

Corporate profits were weak last quarter. After-tax profits without inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustment, which correspond to S&P 500 profits, contracted at a 1.7% rate after accelerating at a 36.1% pace in the third quarter. Profits fell 3.3% in 2020 after rising 1.8% in 2019.

But that is all history. The economy is forecast to grow by as much as a 7.5% rate in the first quarter. Growth this year is expected to top 7%. That would be the fastest growth since 1984 and would follow a 3.5% contraction last year, the worst performance in 74 years.

“We believe there is ample room for corporate profits to rise as company revenues pick up markedly and margins remain well supported,” said Lydia Boussour, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “Improving health conditions, expanding vaccine distribution, and generous fiscal stimulus will form a powerful growth cocktail.”

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)

Chicagoans told to stay home, Detroit moves school online as COVID-19 cases surge

By Brendan O’Brien and Maria Caspani

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago issued a stay-at-home advisory and Detroit stopped in-person schooling on Thursday to staunch the coronavirus outbreak as more than a dozen states reported a doubling of new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks.

Officials in the Midwestern cities along with New York, California, Iowa and other states were re-imposing this week restrictions that had been eased in recent months. The moves were driven by surging infection rates and concern that the onset of winter, when people are more likely to gather indoors, will worsen the trends.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday issued a 30-day advisory calling upon residents to stay at home and have no visitors, even during Thanksgiving festivities. The third- largest city in the United States could see 1,000 more COVID-19 deaths by the end of 2020 if residents do not change behaviors to stop the spread of the virus, Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot set a 10-person limit on gatherings, including indoor and outdoor events, and said travelers from out of the state needed to quarantine for 14 days or submit a negative coronavirus test.

“None of us can keep maintaining the status quo in the face of this very stark reality,” the mayor told reporters, noting the average number of cases have gone from 500 to 1,900 per day over the last month and the city’s positivity rate shot up to 15% from 5%.

Illinois has emerged as the pandemic’s new epicenter in the region as well as across the country. In the past two weeks, the state reported about 130,000 cases, the highest in the country and more than hard-hit Texas and California.

A Reuters tally showed coronavirus cases more than doubling in 13 states in the past two weeks.

In Michigan, the Detroit public school system – the state’s largest – said on Thursday it would suspend of in-person education until Jan. 11, with the infection rate in the city rising rapidly. The district will hold all classes online starting Monday.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that the country’s largest school system was preparing for a possible shutdown but closure might still be averted.

“We’re not there yet, and let’s pray we don’t get there,” de Blasio told reporters. De Blasio has said schools will close if the percentage of city residents testing positive, now at a seven-day average of 2.6%, surpasses 3%.

Total COVID-19 cases across the United States hit an all-time daily high for a second day in a row on Wednesday at 142,279 and crossed the 100,000 mark for an eighth consecutive day, Reuters data showed.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus surged to at least 64,939 by late Wednesday, the highest ever for a single day during the pandemic, increasing by more than 41% in the past two weeks. The death toll rose by 1,464 to a total of 241,809.

Vaccine developers have offered some good news this week, with Pfizer and BioNTech trumpeting successful early data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

Health experts are hopeful that a vaccine might become available in the coming months for the most vulnerable populations and for healthcare providers.

But with a more lengthy timeline for the general public, many are urging strict adherence to well-known virus mitigation measures like wearing a face covering, washing hands and maintaining a safe social distance.

“We hope that by the time you get into the second quarter, end of April, early May, May-June – somewhere around that time, the ordinary citizen should be able to get it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official, told the ABC “Good Morning America” program on Thursday.

“What we need to do is what we’ve been talking about for some time now but really doubling down on it.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. crosses 10 million COVID-19 cases as third wave of infections surges

By Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia

(Reuters) – The United States became the first nation worldwide since the pandemic began to surpass 10 million coronavirus infections, according to a Reuters tally on Sunday, as the third wave of the COVID-19 virus surges across the nation.

The grim milestone came on the same day as global coronavirus cases exceeded 50 million.

The United states has reported about a million cases in the past 10 days, the highest rate of infections since the nation reported its first novel coronavirus case in Washington state 293 days ago.

The country reported a record 131,420 COVID-19 cases on Saturday and has reported over 100,000 infections five times in the past seven days, according to a Reuters tally.

The U.S. latest reported seven-day average of 105,600 daily cases, ramped up by at least 29%, is more than the combined average for India and France, two of the worst affected countries in Asia and Europe.

More than 237,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the illness caused by the coronavirus first emerged in China late last year.

The daily average of reported new deaths in the United States account for one in every 11 deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.

The number of reported deaths nationwide climbed by more than 1,000 for a fifth consecutive day on Saturday, a trend last seen in mid-August, according to a Reuters tally.

Health experts say deaths tend to increase four to six weeks after a surge in infections.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who spent much of his election campaign criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, pledged on Saturday to make tackling the pandemic a top priority.

Biden will announce a 12-member task force on Monday to deal with the pandemic that will be led by former surgeon general Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler. The coronavirus task force will be charged with developing a blueprint for containing the disease once Biden takes office in January.

The Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on the most cases per capita with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska the top five worst-affected U.S. states.

Illinois emerged as the new epicenter in the Midwest, with the state reporting over 60,000 COVID-19 infections in the last seven days, the highest in the country, according to Reuters data. The state reported more than 12,454 new cases on Saturday, the highest single-day number so far.

Texas, which accounts for 10% of total U.S. cases, is the hardest-hit state and became the first to surpass a million coronavirus cases in the United States on Saturday.

According to a Reuters analysis, the South region comprises nearly 43% of all the cases in the United States since the pandemic began, with nearly 4.3 million cases in the region alone, followed by the Midwest, West and Northeast.

New York, with over 33,000 fatalities, remains the state with highest number of deaths and accounts for about 14% of total U.S. deaths.

The United States performed about 10.5 million coronavirus tests in the first seven days of November, of which 6.22% came back positive, compared with 6.17% the prior seven-days, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Diane Craft and Michael Perry)

Teenager charged with killing two in Kenosha to fight extradition, lawyer says

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two protesters and injuring another during demonstrations about race and justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will fight his requested extradition from Illinois, his lawyer told a court hearing on Friday.

Rittenhouse, 17, has been charged by Kenosha County’s district attorney with six crimes for shooting three people who tried to subdue or disarm him during protests on Aug. 25, killing 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, 26.

Rittenhouse participated in the hearing at the Lake County Circuit Court in Illinois via video link from the detention facility where he is being held. He was wearing a black sweatshirt and a gray mask covered his face.

“Good morning, your honor,” he addressed the judge in his only remarks in the hearing, which lasted just a few minutes.

John Pierce, one of Rittenhouse’s lawyers, said he planned to fight the request by Kenosha prosecutors that he be transferred to Wisconsin to face the charges.

“We intend to challenge extradition by writ of habeas corpus,” Pierce said. “And so we would ask that the procedures be put in place whereby extradition documents are in fact sent from Wisconsin so we can review them.”

The teenager had traveled to Kenosha on Aug. 25 from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, in a self-appointed role to protect the streets of Kenosha where the police shooting of Jacob Blake had sparked unrest during protests against police brutality and racism.

Rittenhouse’s legal team have said that he feared for his life when he fired his semi-automatic rifle and was acting in self-defense. Cellphone videos from the night show chaotic scenes, including one where Rittenhouse is chased and falls down before his encounter with Huber and another man, Gaige Grosskreutz.

Huber appeared to hit Rittenhouse in the shoulder with a skateboard and tried to grab his rifle before being shot, according to the criminal complaint. Rittenhouse then pointed the rifle at Grosskreutz, who had a hand gun. Grosskreutz was shot but survived.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers have also sought to portray the case as a referendum on the right to bear arms following a summer of sometimes violent protests in major U.S. cities.

“A 17-year-old American citizen is being sacrificed by politicians, but it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they are after,” the narrator says in a video released this week by a group tied to his legal team. “Their end game is to strip away the constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

COVID-19 cases rise in U.S. Midwest and Northeast, deaths fall for third week

(Reuters) – Several states in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast have seen new COVID-19 cases increase for two weeks in a row, though nationally both new infections and deaths last week remained on a downward trend, a Reuters analysis showed.

The United States reported more than 287,000 new cases in the week ended Sept. 6, down 1.4% from the previous week and marking the seventh straight week of declines. More than 5,800 people died from COVID-19 last week, the third week in a row that the death rate has fallen.

Nevertheless, 17 states have seen cases rise for at least two weeks, according to the Reuters tally of state and county reports. They include Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin, where between 10% and 18% of people tested had the new coronavirus.

In the Northeast, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York also reported increases in new cases for at least two weeks, though the positive test rate ranged from a low of 0.9% in New York to a high of 4.3% in Delaware — below the 5% level the World Health Organization considers concerning.

In some states, testing has increased as schools reopened. New York City, for instance, is testing 10% to 20% of students and staff every month. The University of Illinois is testing students twice a week.

Nationally, the share of all tests that came back positive for COVID-19 fell for a fifth week to 5.5%, well below a peak of nearly 9% in mid-July, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

The United States tested on average 741,000 people a day last week, up 5% from the prior week, but down from a peak in late July of over 800,000 people a day.

(Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Graphic by Chris Canipe; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

Teenager in Wisconsin shootings charged with six criminal counts: complaint

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager arrested and charged in the shootings in Wisconsin that led to the death of two people and injury of another, faces six criminal counts, according to a court document released on Thursday.

The charges against Rittenhouse in Kenosha County include first degree intentional homicide in the death of Anthony Huber, who was carrying a skateboard when he was gunned down. A conviction on that charge alone carries a life sentence.

Rittenhouse, 17, is being held in Illinois where he lives. He has a court hearing on Friday for his requested extradition to Kenosha. The public defender assigned to his case in Lake County, Illinois has declined to comment.

The charges were detailed in a criminal complaint released by Kenosha County’s clerk of courts. The document is the first detailed disclosure of the case against Rittenhouse for his role in the violence that erupted on Tuesday night when armed militia members clashed with protesters in the city.

The protests started after Jacob Blake was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer on Sunday afternoon.

Rittenhouse was also charged with causing the death of Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old demonstrator who he shot in the parking lot of a used car dealer just before midnight on Tuesday, according to the complaint, which draws on multiple cell phone videos and witness accounts.

One video records Rittenhouse saying “I just killed somebody” after shooting Rosenbaum, the complaint says.

Rittenhouse was carrying a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style rifle and “was not handling the weapon very well,” one witness states in the complaint. “The recovered magazine for this rifle holds 30 rounds of ammunition,” the complaint says.

The complaint says one video shows Huber, with a skateboard in his right hand, approaching Rittenhouse when he was on the ground. Huber appears then to try and grab the gun from Rittenhouse with his left hand before Rittenhouse fires.

“Huber staggers away, taking several steps, then collapses to the ground. Huber subsequently died from this gunshot wound,” the complaint says.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)