Michigan’s former governor and health director charged in Flint water crisis

DETROIT (Reuters) – Michigan’s former health director was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter as part of a years-long criminal investigation into the crisis surrounding lead contamination of the drinking water system serving the city of Flint.

Nick Lyon pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were linked to the deaths of nine people, at his arraignment in a Gennessee County court on Thursday, according to media reports.

Former Governor Rick Snyder and Howard Croft, Flint’s former public works director, were also arraigned, the reports said.

Michigan’s attorney general and a team of prosecutors are due to unveil the full findings of their investigation into the Flint water crisis later on Thursday morning.

Snyder was charged on Wednesday with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty for his role in a debacle that afflicted the predominantly African-American city and became emblematic of racial inequality in the United States.

Flint’s troubles began in 2014 after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River from Lake Huron to cut costs. Corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes, tainting the drinking water and causing an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

The contamination also prompted several lawsuits from parents who said their children were showing dangerously high blood levels of lead, which can cause development disorders. Lead can be toxic and children are especially vulnerable.

A civil settlement of more than $600 million was reached with victims of the water crisis in August 2020 and is awaiting court approval.

The date of the misdemeanor offense in charging documents filed against Snyder and posted online was listed as April 25, 2014, the day the city switched water systems. Each count carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Detroit News has reported that as many as 10 people in all faced charges stemming from the water crisis, including some former members of Snyder’s administration.

Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, was governor when the city of some 100,000 residents was under the control of a state-appointed manager in 2014. He was succeeded by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.

The former Wayne County prosecutor appointed in 2016 to lead the state’s investigation of the matter said then that he was looking to determine whether any officials who signed off on the change in the water system had acted criminally.

On Wednesday, the office of the state attorney general, Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, said the findings of that inquiry would be announced at a news conference on Thursday, along with Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Snyder has repeatedly apologized for the state’s poor handling of the crisis, but his lawyer, Brian Lennon, has said any prosecution of the former governor would be politically motivated.

“It is outrageous to think any criminal charges would be filed against Governor Snyder. Any charges would be meritless,” Lennon said in a statement the day before the case was filed.

Nessel’s office declined to comment on the case ahead of Thursday’s news conference.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Brendan O’Brien, Ben Klayman and Nathan Layne; additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Grand jury indicts six men for Michigan governor kidnap plot

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – Six men facing charges of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were indicted by a grand jury this week, the U.S. attorney’s office for western Michigan said on Thursday.

The men — Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — were arrested and charged in October with conspiring to grab Whitmer, a Democrat, from her vacation home earlier this year.

Some of the men belong to an anti-government militia group called Wolverine Watchmen. At least one of the defendants, Fox, considered Whitmer to be a sort of tyrant because she had ordered gyms closed in the state to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to prosecutors.

Obtaining the grand jury indictments, which came down on Wednesday, was a necessary step to proceed with the federal prosecutions, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

Parker Douglas, a lawyer representing Harris, said Harris had pleaded not guilty because “there was no actual conspiracy to kidnap Governor Whitmer.”

“As you can see from the indictment, the government is extremely vague regarding the alleged conspiracy’s nature, the alleged conspiracy’s object and any steps my client allegedly took to agree with the conspiracy,” Douglas wrote in an email.

Lawyers for the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

If convicted at trial, the defendants, who are in jail after being denied bail, would face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The indictment accuses the men of discussing kidnapping Whitmer, meeting in July in Wisconsin to practice using assault rifles, and surveilling Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, mapping out how far it was from the nearest police station.

Some of the men also bought supplies for kidnapping, the indictment said. In September, Fox bought a Taser-style stun gun and placed a $4,000 order for explosives with someone he did not realize was, in fact, an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump and 17 states back Texas bid at Supreme Court

By Jan Wolfe and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let him join a lawsuit by Texas seeking to throw out the voting results in four states, litigation that also drew support from 17 other states.

In a separate brief, lawyers for 17 states led by Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt also urged the nine justices to hear the Texas lawsuit.

Trump on Wednesday vowed to intervene in the lawsuit though he did not provide details on the nature of the intervention including whether it would be by presidential campaign or the U.S. Justice Department.

Writing on Twitter, Trump said, “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday by the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, targeted four states.

In addition to Missouri, the states joining Texas were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

The lawsuit was filed directly with the Supreme Court rather than with a lower court, as is permitted for certain litigation between states.

The Texas suit argued that changes made by the four states to voting procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic to expand mail-in voting were unlawful. Texas asked the Supreme Court to immediately block the four states from using the voting results to appoint presidential electors to the Electoral College.

Texas also asked the Supreme Court to delay the Dec. 14 date for Electoral College votes to be formally cast, a date set by law in 1887.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Will Dunham)

U.S. judge declines to sanction Trump campaign over alleged ‘disinformation’ tactic

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Michigan has declined to reprimand President Donald Trump’s campaign for submitting a court document that opposing lawyers said was purposefully misleading.

In a four-page order issued on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff said she would not strike the disputed document from the court record. Lawyers for the city of Detroit had asked Neff to strike the document as a way of sanctioning Trump’s campaign.

“While we are disappointed that sanctions were not awarded, this is only one of many cases filed in Michigan, and we do expect these lawyers to be sanctioned by some courts for their repeated frivolous lawsuits,” David Fink, a lawyer for the city of Detroit, said in a statement.

Trump’s campaign on Nov. 19 said it was voluntarily dropping a lawsuit contesting Michigan’s election results because election officials in Wayne County “met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election.”

In fact, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers on Nov. 17 refused at first to certify the results, but then reversed themselves after a public outcry.

Detroit’s lawyers said on Nov. 19 that the campaign included “impertinent and false language” in the filing. They did not request a monetary penalty, but said Neff had “the authority to strike materials from the record as a sanction.”

Federal law allows Trump’s lawyers to “voluntarily dismiss their claims, but it does not allow them to use a Notice of Dismissal to spread disinformation,” according to Detroit’s motion.

Mark “Thor” Hearne, the Trump campaign lawyer who submitted the document, has said the sanctions request was meritless and an attempt to score political points.

Hearne argued affidavits attached to his filing accurately explained the facts to the judge.

Neff provided little explanation for why she did not think the sanction was warranted.

“With the filing of its motion, the City of Detroit’s factual position is part of the court record, and the Court, in its discretion, declines to impose the requested sanction,” Neff wrote.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown)

Trump to meet Michigan lawmakers in bid to overturn electoral defeat

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump will meet with Republican leaders from Michigan at the White House on Friday as his campaign pursues a bid to overturn the Nov. 3 election following a series of courtroom defeats.

The Trump campaign’s latest strategy, as described by three people familiar with the plan, is to convince Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden, such as Michigan, to set aside the results and determine Trump the winner.

“The entire election frankly in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump,” Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Fox Business Network on Thursday.

Biden, a Democrat, won the election and is preparing to take office on Jan. 20, but Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede and is searching for a way to invalidate the results, claiming widespread voter fraud.

The Trump team is focusing on Michigan and Pennsylvania for now, but even if both those states flipped to the president he would need another state to overturn its vote to surpass Biden in the Electoral College.

Such an extraordinary event would be unprecedented in modern U.S. history. Trump not only would need three state legislatures to intervene against vote counts as they stand now, but then also have those actions upheld by Congress and, almost certainly, the Supreme Court.

Michigan’s state legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, will visit the White House at Trump’s request, according to a source in Michigan.

The two lawmakers will listen to what the president has to say, the source said. Shirkey told a Michigan news outlet earlier this week that the legislature would not appoint a second slate of electors.

“It’s incredibly dangerous that they are even entertaining the conversation,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told MSNBC. “This is an embarrassment to the state.”

SOUNDING THE ALARM

Biden, meanwhile, is due on Friday to meet Democratic leaders in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after spending most of the week with advisers planning his administration.

Nationally, Biden won nearly 6 million more votes than Trump, a difference of 3.8 percentage points. But the outcome of the election is determined in the Electoral College, where each state’s electoral votes, based largely on population, are typically awarded to the winner of a state’s popular vote.

Biden leads by 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 as states work to certify their results at least six days before the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 14.

Legal experts have sounded the alarm at the notion of a sitting president seeking to undermine the will of the voters, though they have expressed skepticism that a state legislature could lawfully substitute its own electors.

Trump’s lawyers are seeking to take the power of appointing electors away from state governors and secretaries of state, and give it to friendly state lawmakers from his party, saying the U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the ultimate authority.

ROMNEY CRITICIZES TRUMP

Even though election officials have not reported any major irregularities, most prominent Republicans have remained devoted to their leader or quietly acceded. But a few Republicans, including senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have spoken out.

“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney said in a statement on Thursday. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”

Other Republican senators including Ben Sasse and Joni Ernst called on Trump to offer proof.

Trump’s attempts to reverse the outcome via lawsuits and recounts have met with little success.

The Georgia Secretary of State on Friday confirmed that Biden won the state after a manual recount and an audit were conducted.

“The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or courts, or of either campaigns,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, told reporters.

Despite the setbacks, the Trump campaign has not abandoned its legal efforts.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said on Thursday he planned to file more lawsuits, accusing Democrats of masterminding a “national conspiracy” to steal the election, though he offered no evidence to support the claim.

Biden called Trump’s attempts “totally irresponsible” on Thursday, though he has expressed little concern they will succeed in preventing him from taking office on Jan. 20.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit, Jarrett Renshaw in Wilmington, Delaware, Karen Freifeld in New York and Jan Wolfe and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Daniel Trotta, David Clarke and Chizu Nomiyama)

Trump campaign drops Michigan lawsuit: statement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign said on Thursday it was withdrawing its lawsuit disputing vote results in Michigan, in another legal attempt to challenge the Nov. 3 victory of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

“This morning we are withdrawing our lawsuit in Michigan as a direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Options dwindling, Trump faces likely setback in Georgia recount

By Andy Sullivan and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. presidential election battleground state of Georgia is expected on Thursday to affirm Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump after a painstaking recount, which would deal yet another setback to the president’s attempts to cling to power.

Georgia’s top election official, a Republican, has said the manual recount of almost 5 million votes is unlikely to erode Biden’s initial 14,000 winning margin by enough to hand Trump victory in the state.

That would leave Republican Trump with a dwindling number of options to overturn the results of an election in which Democrat Biden won 5.8 million more votes nationwide. Barring a series of unprecedented events, Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

In the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner, Biden has captured 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, well ahead of the 270 needed for victory. The winner in each state is awarded that state’s electoral votes, a number roughly proportional to the population.

Flipping Georgia’s 16 votes would still leave Trump at least two closely contested states away from overturning Biden’s victory. Georgia officials say they expect to release results on Thursday ahead of a certification deadline on Friday.

In Pennsylvania, where Biden won by 82,000 votes, the Trump campaign is asking a judge to declare him the winner there, saying its Republican-controlled legislature should choose the state’s slate of 20 Electoral College voters.

In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign has paid for a partial recount, even though election officials there say that will likely only add to Biden’s 20,000-vote advantage in a state that carries 10 electoral votes.

‘A DEEPER PROBLEM’

Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits in a number of other states, including Michigan, with scant success so far.

Those legal motions, sprinkled with factual errors, have been dismissed by Biden’s campaign as “theatrics” that are not based on sound law.

Several prominent law firms have pulled out of the operation, leaving Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to spearhead the efforts.

Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that lawyers would discuss a “viable path to victory” at a news conference at noon ET (1700 GMT).

State and federal election officials, as well as outside experts, say Trump’s argument that the election was stolen from him by widespread voter fraud has no basis in fact.

However, it does appear to be affecting public confidence in American democracy. A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday found about half of Republicans believe Trump “rightfully won” the election.

Arizona’s top election official, Democrat Katie Hobbs, said she and her family had been getting violent threats and urged Trump to stop casting doubt on the result, in which he lost by just over 10,000 votes.

“(The threats) are a symptom of a deeper problem in our state and country – the consistent and systematic undermining of trust in each other and our democratic process,” Hobbs said in a statement.

Trump, who has largely stayed in the White House and kept out of public view since the election, has no public events scheduled for Thursday.

His administration has so far refused to recognize Biden as the winner, which has held up funding and security clearances to ease the transition from one president to another ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Biden said on Wednesday that the delay was preventing his team from planning a new assault on surging coronavirus infections, which is straining the U.S. healthcare system.

(Writing by Andy Sullivan and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Ross Colvin, Lincoln Feast and David Clarke)

Michigan, Washington state impose severe COVID-19 restrictions as U.S. infections soar

By David Shepardson and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Michigan and Washington state on Sunday imposed sweeping new restrictions on gatherings, including halting indoor restaurant service, to slow the spread of the coronavirus as total U.S. infections crossed the 11 million mark, just over a week after hitting 10 million.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered a ban on in-person high school and college classes as well as indoor dining service for three weeks starting on Wednesday as increasingly cold weather drives people indoors where the virus can spread more easily.

She banned public events at concert halls, casinos, movie theaters, skating rinks and other venues, while in-home gatherings will be limited to 10 people from no more than two households.

Whitmer, a Democrat, warned that without aggressive action, Michigan could soon suffer 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per week.

“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” she told a news conference. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”

White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas reacted to the Michigan orders by urging state residents on Twitter to “rise up” against them. After this drew criticism from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Atlas said he “NEVER was talking at all about violence.”

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced a one-month ban on indoor services at restaurants and gyms, and a reduction of in-store retail capacity to 25%.

Indoor gatherings would be prohibited outside of one’s household and outdoor gatherings would be limited to five people in Washington state under Inslee’s order.

The new restrictions come as daily new infections in recent days have more than doubled from single-day highs reported during the previous U.S. peak in mid-July. The number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals also has reached an all-time high.

‘DANGEROUS PERIOD’

Earlier on Sunday, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers called for urgent action to address COVID-19, warning that Republican President Donald Trump’s refusal to begin a transition of power could further jeopardize the battle against the rampaging virus. Biden’s advisers also said it would inhibit vaccine distribution planning and could jeopardize additional government financial aid before Biden, a Democrat, takes office in January.

“We are in a very dangerous period,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board and director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Unless action is taken now, “we’re going to see these numbers grow substantially,” Osterholm warned. “Our future’s in our hands.”

Basic public health measures such as face covering to curb the spread have become politicized under Trump, who has eschewed mask mandates even after contracting COVID-19 last month, while Biden has backed their widespread use.

Still, some Republican governors in recent days have been forced to act, with North Dakota joining 35 other states over the weekend in mandating masks and Iowa this week requiring them in certain circumstances.

Forty U.S. states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, while 20 saw a record rise in deaths and 26 reported record hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally.

The latest 7-day average, shows the United States is reporting more than 144,000 daily cases and 1,120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, on Sunday urged Congress to immediately pass COVID-19 relief legislation with new restrictions certain to take a toll.

“This could be a first example of bipartisan action post-election,” Klain told NBC. He said Biden has spoken to congressional Democratic leaders, but not to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to publicly acknowledge Biden as president-elect.

‘PASSING A BATON’

Klain said there had been no formal contact between Biden’s advisory panel and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which requires transition authorization from the General Services Administration.

“It’s really important in the smooth handing over of the information,” top U.S. infectious disease expert and White House task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “It’s almost like passing a baton in a race, you don’t want to stop and give it to somebody, you just want to essentially keep going.”

Biden’s team this week planned to meet with Pfizer Inc., which last week released positive initial data on its experimental novel coronavirus vaccine, and other drugmakers, Klain said.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, head of Biden’s COVID team, told Fox News the coronavirus surge was “deeply alarming” but that a national lockdown was “a measure of last resort.”

“The better way to think about these safety restrictions is more a dial that we turn up and down depending on severity” in a given area, he said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Shepardson; additional reporting by Michelle Price, Nathan Layne, Sarah N. Lynch, Linda So and Anurag Maan; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Diane Craft, Robert Birsel)

Michigan state court rejects request to block Detroit election certification results

By Tom Hals and Makini Brice

(Reuters) – A Michigan state court rejected on Friday a request by supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump to block the certification of votes and appoint an independent auditor in Detroit, which voted heavily in favor of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

The ruling is a setback for Trump and Republicans who have been trying to overturn Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election by preventing officials from certifying election results.

“It would be an unprecedented exercise of judicial activism for this Court to stop the certification process of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers,” wrote Timothy Kenny, chief judge of the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Michigan, referring to the county that includes Detroit.

The lawsuit alleged fraud and voting irregularities, which Wayne County has denied.

The judge rejected those allegations, writing: “Plaintiffs’ interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.”

He noted that allegations, such as city workers encouraging voters to cast their ballot for Democrats, were not backed up by details, such as locations or times when such events allegedly took place.

The judge also said that one witness who had filed an affidavit had posted on Facebook before the election that he speculated that Democrats were using the pandemic as cover for election fraud, undermining his testimony and credibility.

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign filed a similar lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Michigan, alleging harassment of Republican poll challengers and a requirement they adhere to six-foot distancing rules that was not equally enforced against Democratic poll challengers.

Michigan is due to certify its election results on Nov. 23.

The campaign and Republicans have also sued in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seeking to block the certification of election results.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision before the election that a former Pennsylvania congressional candidate and four individual voters lacked standing to sue over the state’s decision to allow “no excuses” absentee ballots and to extend mail-ballot deadlines due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Louise Heavens and Alistair Bell)

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)