Judge orders twice daily sweeps for states still receiving ballots in U.S. election

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) – A judge on Thursday ordered twice daily sweeps at U.S. Postal Service (USPS) facilities serving states with extended ballot receipt deadlines as votes were still being counted in U.S. election battleground states.

Some states, including still undecided Nevada and North Carolina, are counting ballots that are received after Election Day Tuesday. Plaintiffs lawyers in a lawsuit said the Postal Service delivered roughly 150,000 ballots nationwide on Wednesday. Of those, roughly 8,000 or 9,000, were delivered after Tuesday even though they had been mailed by Sunday.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said the processing centers must perform morning sweeps and then afternoon sweeps “to ensure that any identified local ballots can be delivered that day.”

USPS must report to headquarters “the total number of ballots identified and confirm that those ballots have been expedited for delivery to meet applicable extended state deadlines,” Sullivan added in an order.

Sullivan has been urging USPS to take all possible steps to ensure ballots are delivered before deadlines. He ordered the sweeps in response to lawsuits by groups including Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates.

“The pressing issues are where are the ballots and how do we get them delivered so they can be counted,” Sullivan said on Wednesday.

Ballots were still being counted by election officials in battleground states two days after polls closed in one of the most unusual elections in U.S. history because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Democratic candidate Joe Biden was cutting into Republican President Donald Trump’s leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia but retained slim margins in Nevada and Arizona.

USPS is using priority mail networks through Saturday to deliver any remaining ballots.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Grant McCool)

Trump campaign loses legal fights in Georgia and Michigan, vows Nevada lawsuit

By Tom Hals and Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s campaign lost court rulings in the closely-contested states of Georgia and Michigan on Thursday, even as it vowed to bring a new lawsuit challenging what it called voting irregularities in Nevada.

In the Georgia case, the campaign alleged 53 late-arriving ballots were mixed with on-time ballots. In Michigan, it had sought to stop votes from being counted and obtain greater access to the tabulation process.

State judges tossed out both the suits on Thursday.

Judge James Bass, a superior court judge in Georgia, said there was “no evidence” that the ballots in question were invalid.

In the Michigan case, Judge Cynthia Stephens said: “I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”

Trump allies alleged that there had been voting irregularities in Nevada’s populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on the Michigan and Georgia rulings.

Votes are still being counted in all three states, among a handful of battleground states that could decide the presidency. Democratic challenger Joe Biden has a narrow lead in Nevada, Trump a narrow lead in Georgia, and Biden has been projected to win in Michigan.

At a news conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and other Trump campaign surrogates, including former administration official Richard Grenell, gave no evidence to support their allegations of irregularities and did not answer questions from reporters.

“We believe that there are dead voters that have been counted. We are also confident that there are thousands of people whose votes have been counted that have moved out of Clark County during the pandemic,” Laxalt said.

He said a lawsuit would be filed in federal court to ask the judge to “stop the counting of improper votes.”

Joe Gloria, an election official in Clark County, told reporters there was no evidence of improper ballots being processed.

Bob Bauer, a senior advisor to Biden’s campaign, called the various Trump lawsuits a “meritless” distraction and said the strategy was designed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

“This is part of a broader misinformation campaign that involves some political theater,” he said.

“They’re intended to give the Trump campaign the opportunity to argue the vote count should stop. It is not going to stop,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Election legal experts have said Trump’s legal strategy is unlikely to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the election.

Trump has repeatedly said that he expects the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices he appointed, to have a key role.

But it is unlikely the court would have the final word in any decisive way and any challenge would have to make its way through the usual court process, legal experts say.

In Pennsylvania, where Trump is narrowly leading but Biden is making gains, the Trump campaign and other Republicans have already filed various legal challenges.

An appeals court in Pennsylvania on Thursday ordered that Trump campaign officials be allowed to more closely observe ballot processing in Philadelphia, which led to a brief delay in the count.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, Tom Hals, Karen Freifeld, Julia Harte, Jan Wolfe, Daphne Psaledakis and Lawrence Hurley; Writing by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Peter Graff, Sonya Hepinstall and Noeleen Walder)

Factbox: Seven states that are deciding the U.S. presidential election

(Reuters) – The U.S. presidential election will be decided in seven states where votes are still being counted that could swing the outcome to either Republican President Donald Trump or his challenger Joe Biden.

Biden held a lead in four of the states that together award 43 Electoral College votes, which could just allow the Democrat to reach the 270 votes he would need to win, while Trump led in three that hold 51 Electoral College votes, which would push his total to 265.

Here’s a state-by-state look:

ARIZONA

Electoral votes: 11

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: This one appears to be in the Biden column, but only two of the six news organizations that Reuters is following have called Arizona for Biden, and Edison Research has not yet done so. All absentee ballots had to arrive by the close of polls on Election Day. Ballots could be scanned and tabulated starting 14 days before Tuesday.

GEORGIA

Electoral votes: 16

Rating: Leaned Republican ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization had yet to call the presidential contest. Trump has a lead but Biden could make up ground in the uncounted votes around Atlanta. Absentee ballots had to be received by clerks by the close of polls on Election Day. Ballots could be opened and scanned on receipt, but they could not be tallied until after the polls closed on Tuesday. Officials in Fulton County, home to Atlanta and a tenth of all Georgians, warned on Tuesday that its vote count would not be finalized until Wednesday.

PENNSYLVANIA

Electoral votes: 20

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization had yet to call the presidential contest in Pennsylvania. Trump appeared to have a substantial lead but many of the outstanding mail-in ballots yet to be counted were from strongly Democratic areas. Absentee ballot counting began at 7 a.m. on Election Day. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling by Pennsylvania’s top court that officials in the state could accept mail-in ballots three days after Tuesday’s election, so long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

WISCONSIN

Electoral votes: 10

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: Two of the six news organizations that Reuters is following have called Wisconsin for Biden, and a third has called Biden the apparent winner, pending a potential recount. Edison Research has not yet called the race. Biden held a thin lead within the margin that would allow the Trump campaign to call for a recount. The state’s election officials could not count mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 26. Ballots could not be counted until polls opened on Tuesday.

MICHIGAN

Electoral votes: 16

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization has yet to call a winner in the presidential contest in Michigan, though Biden held a small lead. Absentee ballots had to arrive at clerks’ offices by the close of polls on Election Day. Some densely populated jurisdictions in the state, such as Detroit, began sorting absentee ballots on Monday, but the vast majority did not. Clerks could begin scanning and counting absentee ballots at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Wednesday the state would have a clearer picture by the end of the day.

NORTH CAROLINA

Electoral votes: 15

Rating: Leaned Republican ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization has yet called a winner in the presidential election, though Trump held a lead. Edison and three news organizations have called the governor’s race for incumbent Roy Cooper, a Democrat.

North Carolina absentee ballots could be scanned weeks in advance, but results could not be tallied before Election Day. In a defeat for Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to block the state’s plan to tally ballots that are postmarked by Tuesday and arrive by Nov. 12.

NEVADA

Electoral votes: 6

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization has yet to determine a winner in the presidential election. Biden held a razor-thin lead but final results could be delayed until later in the week. Absentee ballots could be processed upon receipt starting 14 days before the election, but results are not released until election night. Mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted so long as they arrive within seven days after the election.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Julia Harte, Rich McKay, Brendan O’Brien, Jarrett Renshaw and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Scott Malone and Angus MacSwan)

Coronavirus fuels historic legal battle over voting as 2020 U.S. election looms

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – The Nov. 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden has generated an unprecedented wave of election-related litigation, as both sides seek to shape the rules governing how votes are tallied in key states.

With 40 days left, the court clashes have spread to every competitive state amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has fueled pitched battles over seemingly mundane issues such as witness signatures, U.S. mail postmarks and the use of drop boxes for ballots.

Trump’s unfounded attacks on voting by mail and delivery delays amid cost-cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service have only intensified the urgency of the litigation.

A Reuters analysis of state and federal court records found more than 200 election-related cases pending as of Tuesday. Overall, at least 250 election lawsuits spurred by the coronavirus have been filed, according to Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor who has been tracking the litigation.

The pandemic has turned what were once minor hurdles, such as witness signature requirements, into potentially major obstacles, while exacerbating existing concerns.

“In the past, long lines would be disenfranchising or deterring, but in this case they can be deadly,” said Myrna Perez, who directs the voting rights and elections program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Democrats generally have sought to ease restrictions on mail ballots, which are surging as voters want to avoid the risk of visiting in-person polling sites.

“The Biden campaign has assembled the biggest voter protection program in history to ensure our election runs smoothly and to combat any attempt by Donald Trump to interfere in the democratic process,” Mike Gwin, a Biden spokesman, said.

Republicans say they are trying to prevent illegal voting, although experts say voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

“Democrats are working to shred election integrity measures one state at a time, and there’s no question they’ll continue their shenanigans from now to November and beyond,” said Matthew Morgan, general counsel for the Trump campaign.

A flurry of court decisions this month have delivered several Democratic wins, although many remain subject to appeal. In the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina, officials will count ballots that arrive after Nov. 3, as long as they were sent by Election Day.

Several pending cases, including in competitive Texas, Pennsylvania and Michigan, could have a major impact on those states’ elections.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, Republicans will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in after the state’s highest court rejected their bid to limit drop boxes and disqualify late-arriving ballots. The Trump campaign is pursuing a separate federal lawsuit over some of the same issues.

In Texas, state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, has sued officials in Harris County to stop them from sending absentee ballot applications to all voters. The county, which includes Houston, is the state’s most populous, with nearly 5 million residents.

Republicans prevailed in several earlier cases.

In Florida, a federal appeals court blocked hundreds of thousands of ex-felons from voting in November. In Texas, where only those 65 years and older can vote by mail without having to provide a valid reason such as disability, a series of court rulings have stymied Democratic efforts to extend that right to all residents.

SUPREME COURT BATTLE TO COME?

The influx of cases may also be a preview of what is to come after Nov. 3, when new fights could arise over which ballots should be counted.

Both campaigns have assembled armies of lawyers in preparation.

The Biden campaign has lined up hundreds of attorneys and has brought in top lawyers like former U.S. Solicitors General Donald Verrilli and Walter Dellinger and former Attorney General Eric Holder as advisers.

Marc Elias, the Democratic attorney who has coordinated many election lawsuits this year on behalf of left-leaning groups, is heading a team focused on state-by-state voter protection.

Trump’s campaign, for its part, has filed multiple challenges to states like Nevada and New Jersey that plan to mail a ballot to every voter.

Some Democrats are concerned that if Republicans succeed in getting a successor to the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before the election, it will ensure Trump wins any dispute that ends up at the high court.

The Supreme Court’s decision in 2000 to stop the Florida recount handed the presidency to Republican George W. Bush, the only time the high court has decided the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

Trump has seemingly laid the groundwork for a post-election fight, repeatedly asserting without evidence that voting by mail will yield a “rigged” result.

On Wednesday, the president said explicitly that he wanted to have Ginsburg’s successor in place because he expects the election to end up at the Supreme Court.

Levitt, the law professor tracking the cases, said he still trusted that judges would reject challenges not backed by evidence.

“Filing a case costs a few hundred dollars and a lawyer, and can often be useful for messaging,” he said. “But courts of law demand evidence that the court of public opinion doesn’t.”

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Disha Raychaudhuri; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)

‘Rare, dangerous’ heat wave to hit California, U.S. West

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – A record heat wave with temperatures of up to 125 Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) was set to punish California starting on Friday as another extreme weather event raised risks of more forest fires and rolling blackouts.

The “deadly heat wave” of “rare, dangerous and very possibly fatal” temperatures was forecast across Southern California for the U.S. Labor Day holiday weekend, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Los Angeles said.

Record or excessive heat was also expected in Nevada and western Arizona with “brutal” temperatures set to peak on Sunday and continue into Monday, the service said.

“There is a high risk for heat illness along with heightened fire weather concerns,” the NWS Los Angeles office reported, forecasting record high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday.

Climate scientists blame human activities for a two to three degree Fahrenheit rise in average temperatures in California since the early 20th century and say extreme wet-dry cycles are creating abundant parched vegetation to supercharge wildfires.

The long weekend’s heat event is expected to be hotter than the one in mid-August that helped trigger the second and third largest forest fires in California history that are still burning.

Death Valley in California’s Mojave desert recorded one of the hottest air temperatures ever on the planet of 130F on Aug. 17, and highs of around 124F were expected there on Sunday, the NWS said.

The California power grid asked power generators to delay any maintenance until after the weekend to prevent blackouts like the two nights of rolling outages seen in mid-August as residents cranked up their air conditioning.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Tom Brown)

COVID-19 reinfection detected in U.S. patient; saliva tests endorsed

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

COVID-19 reinfection seen in U.S. patient

A case of coronavirus reinfection has been documented in a U.S. patient from Reno, Nevada, according to doctors. The 25-year-old man tested positive for the virus in April after showing mild illness and then got sick again in late May, developing more severe COVID-19 symptoms. Doctors and Nevada public health officials said they were able to show through sophisticated testing that the virus associated with each instance of infection represented genetically different strains. Their report, released on Friday, is undergoing peer review by the Lancet medical journal. Last week, three reinfections were reported – one in Hong Kong and two in Europe. Unlike the Nevada case, the second infections in those patients were milder than the first. Reinfection “may represent a rare event,” the Nevada researchers wrote. But, they said, the findings implied that initial exposure to the virus may not result in full immunity for everyone who has been infected by it.

Saliva samples preferable for COVID-19 testing

Letting patients provide saliva samples for COVID-19 tests is easier and safer than swabbing the back of the nose and throat for samples to test, and the results are equally reliable, Yale University researchers said. Writing on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, they compared saliva and nasopharyngeal swab samples from 70 U.S. hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 495 asymptomatic healthcare workers, using gold-standard laboratory methods. In both groups, the saliva tests and the nasopharyngeal swab tests showed similar sensitivity for detecting the virus. For healthcare workers, unlike the collection of nasopharyngeal samples, collection of saliva samples by patients does not present a risk of infection and alleviates demands for supplies of swabs and personal protective equipment, the researchers said. In a separate study on Friday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers employed an experimental saliva test kit and found that it might miss some mild or asymptomatic infections. But they agreed with the Yale researchers about the advantages of saliva tests and said they “may be of particular benefit for remote, vulnerable or challenging” patients.

Accuracy of faster COVID-19 tests is unclear

It is hard to know whether so-called point-of-care COVID-19 tests, which provide results in a couple of hours rather than days as some other tests do, are accurate, according to a research review. The authors of the review, published on Wednesday by the Cochrane Library, focused on two types of rapid point-of-care tests: antigen tests, which identify proteins on the virus using disposable devices, and molecular tests, which detect viral genetic material using portable or table-top devices. Altogether, they reviewed 22 studies from around the world that compared point-of-care tests to gold-standard so-called RT-PCR laboratory tests. Three-quarters of the studies did not follow the point-of-care test manufacturers’ instructions, they found. There also was little information about study participants, so it was not possible to tell if the results could be applied to people with no symptoms, mild symptoms or severe symptoms. And studies often were at risk for bias, or did not detail their methods. “The evidence currently is not strong enough and more studies are urgently needed to be able to say if these tests are good enough to be used in practice,” the research team led by Jonathan Deeks of the University of Birmingham in Britain wrote.

New studies add to data on COVID-19 in children

Children are far less likely than adults to get severe cases of COVID-19, British doctors found. At 138 hospitals in Britain, through June, less than 1% of COVID-19 patients were children, and 99% survived. Those who died had serious underlying health conditions. “We can be quite sure that COVID in itself is not causing harm to children on a significant scale,” said Malcolm Semple of the University of Liverpool, co-author of research published on Thursday in BMJ. While children’s risk for severe COVID-19 is low, Black children and obese children experienced higher risks. A separate study published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests the proportion of U.S. children with asymptomatic COVID-19 may be low. At 28 hospitals, more than 33,000 children were tested during ear, nose and throat appointments or procedures. None were suspected of having the virus. Fewer than 1% were asymptomatically infected. Even without symptoms, infected children can shed virus for weeks, Korean doctors said on Friday in the JAMA Pediatrics.

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Kate Kelland and Deena Beasley; Editing by Will Dunham)

First U.S. COVID-19 reinfection case identified in Nevada study

By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) – Researchers for the first time have identified someone in the United States who was reinfected with the novel coronavirus, according to a study that has not yet been reviewed by outside experts.

The report, published online, describes a 25-year-old man living in Reno, Nevada, who tested positive for the virus in April after showing mild illness. He got sick again in late May and developed more severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Cases of presumed reinfection have cropped up in other parts of the world, but questions have arisen about testing accuracy. Earlier this week, University of Hong Kong researchers reported details of a 33-year-old man who had recovered in April from a severe case of COVID-19 and was diagnosed four months later with a different strain of the virus.

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory said they were able to show through sophisticated testing that the virus associated with each instance of the Reno man’s infection represented genetically different strains.

They emphasized that reinfection with the virus is probably rare, but said the findings imply that initial exposure to the virus may not result in full immunity for everyone.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Dan Grebler)

New U.S. COVID-19 cases drop for fifth week in a row, deaths decline

(Reuters) – The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the United States fell 17% last week, the fifth straight week of declines, according to a Reuters tally of state and county reports.

Nearly 1,000 people a day continue to die from COVID-19, though last week’s total of more than 6,700 deaths was down 9% from the previous seven days.

The United States posted 297,000 new cases for the week ended Aug. 23, down from a weekly peak of over 468,000 cases in mid-July. The country is now averaging less than 50,000 new infections a day for the first time since early June.

The United States still has the worst outbreak in the world, accounting for a quarter of the global total of 23 million cases.

The state with the biggest percentage increase in new cases last week was South Dakota at 50%. Infections have been rising since the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, which drew more than 100,000 people from all over the country from Aug. 7 to 16. The South Dakota health department was not immediately available for comment.

Cases rose by 30% in nearby North Dakota and by 24% in Wyoming.

The United States tested on average 675,000 people a day last week, down from a peak in late July of over 800,000 people a day.

Nationally, the share of all tests that came back positive for the new virus was 6.3%, down from 7% the prior week and below a peak of 9% in mid-July, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

South Carolina had the highest positivity rate in the nation at 22%, followed by Texas, Nevada and Idaho at 16%.

At least 29 states reported a positivity rate above 5%, the level the World Health Organization considers concerning because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

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

Trump threatens to sue Nevada to block universal mail-in ballots

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump threatened to sue Nevada after Democratic lawmakers passed a bill on Sunday that would send mail-in ballots to every voter ahead of November’s presidential election in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who has claimed without evidence that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the legislation approved on Sunday was an “illegal late night coup.”

“Using Covid to steal the state,” he added. “See you in Court!”

If the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, signs the bill as expected, Nevada would become the seventh state to send ballots to all registered voter for the Nov. 3 election. Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington already conduct their elections entirely by mail, while California and Vermont have decided to do so this year due to the pandemic.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not immediately comment on Trump’s threat. But the ongoing public health crisis has prompted litigation in dozens of states between Democrats and Republicans over issues like absentee ballots, postmark deadlines and signature requirements.

Most states have sought to expand mail-in voting to avoid spreading the coronavirus at polling places on Election Day.

Nevada mailed ballots to voters ahead of its primary election in June and encouraged residents not to risk in-person voting. Most of the state’s polling places were closed, leading to waits of as much as seven hours in Las Vegas.

Sisolak’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet.

Election experts say voter fraud of any kind, including incidents related to mail-in ballots, is vanishingly rare.

Last week, Trump suggested delaying the election due to the likelihood of fraud, though he does not have the authority to do so.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

With U.S. under coronavirus siege, Chicago cracks down, Florida cases soar

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – The city of Chicago reimposed some coronavirus restrictions on Monday and the state of Florida reported more than 10,000 new cases for the sixth day in a row, as the pandemic showed few signs of abating in the United States.

In a rare ray of hope, New York state reported the fewest hospitalizations from the coronavirus in four months and New York City entered a new phase of reopening on Monday, but the progress, in the very city and state that were once the epicenter, was eclipsed by the grim news nearly everywhere else.

Metrics for the country have grown worse including a rising number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations along with rates of positive test results. The virus has killed 140,000 people in the United States and infected some 3.7 million, both figures leading the world.

Florida reported 10,347 new cases on Monday, the sixth day in a row the state has announced over 10,000 new infections. Another 92 people died in Florida, increasing the state’s death toll to 5,183.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions due to take effect on Friday including a ban on indoor service at bars and shutdown of personal services such as shaves and facials that require the removal of masks.

“While we aren’t near the peak of the pandemic from earlier this year, none of us wants to go back there,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

The city of Los Angeles is on the brink of issuing a new stay-at-home order and at least 14 states have reported record hospitalizations so far in July, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.

Meanwhile, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing for schools to reopen in a few weeks and resisting a federal mandate that people wear masks in public, part of what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called an “incompetent” federal government response.

“I’ve said to the president from Day One: This virus does not respond to politics,” Cuomo told a news conference. “The solution is medicine and science.”

WHITE HOUSE BRIEFINGS RESUME

The country remained “totally unprepared,” Cuomo said, as other states lagged in testing, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses.

“Their mistake was they listened to the president,” Cuomo said, while also blasting “stupid and reckless” people in his own state who persistently gather in large groups.

On Monday Trump, under fire over his administration’s response to the surging virus, said he would on Tuesday resume holding news briefings on the pandemic after a lengthy hiatus.

White House debate has centered on whether Trump should risk doing daily briefings after he was mocked for musing that people might inject household disinfectants as a way to protect themselves from contracting the virus.

Last Friday Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters she favored a return of the briefings, which she said had bolstered his approval ratings.

New York state, where the virus took hold early this year before spreading to other states, recorded only eight deaths on Sunday while the total number of people hospitalized for the disease fell to 716, the fewest since March 18, Cuomo said.

However a Reuters analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project showed cases rose by more than 5,000 in the past week, the first week-over-week increase since April, breaking a 13-week streak of declines.

New York City entered a new phase on Monday that will allow low-risk outdoor activity, entertainment at 33 percent capacity and professional sports events. But Major League Baseball’s Yankees and Mets will start their seasons in empty New York City ballparks, indoor dining in restaurants is still prohibited, and bars are subject to social distancing rules.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Maria Caspani, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Howard Goller)