Toyota to build new $1.3 billion battery plant in North Carolina

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Toyota Motor Corp announced on Monday it is building a new $1.29 billion battery plant in North Carolina as it moves to expand its hybrid and electric vehicle efforts.

The new plant, at a site in Liberty that will begin production in 2025, will initially be capable of supplying lithium-ion batteries for 800,000 vehicles annually, and will “pave the way” for Toyota’s U.S. production of electric vehicles, said Chris Reynolds, chief administrative officer for Toyota Motor North America.

The investment will be made by a new company called Toyota Battery Manufacturing and is expected to create 1,750 new U.S. jobs.

In October, Toyota said it would establish a new company and build a new U.S. automotive battery plant with Toyota Tsusho, the automaker’s metals trading arm and a unit of the Toyota Group. Toyota will hold a 90% stake in the battery company.

North Carolina said the new plant will initially produce batteries for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles, and intends to produce batteries for EVs long term.

The state will reimburse Toyota for up to $79.1 million over 20 years and if Toyota expands the project to $3 billion it could receive up to an estimated $315 million.

The state approved additional support to help with final site preparations, including $135 million for road and other site improvements. If Toyota expands the project another $185 million in site development funds would become available.

Toyota said the North Carolina plant plans to eventually expand to at least six production lines for up to 1.2 million batteries annually.

The investment is part of Toyota’s October announcement it would invest $3.4 billion (380 billion yen) on U.S. automotive battery development and production through 2030.

The funds are part of the $13.5 billion Toyota announced in September it planned to spend globally by 2030 to develop batteries.

Automakers around the world are investing billions of dollars to ramp up battery and electric vehicle production as they face increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Toyota has mounted a lobbying campaign to try to convince U.S. lawmakers not to include an additional $4,500 tax incentive for union-made electric vehicles.

In August, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order setting a target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles.

Biden’s 50% goal and the automakers’ 2030 goals includes battery electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles that also have a gasoline-engine.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Alistair Bell)

Biogen Alzheimer’s drug hits roadblocks with some hospitals, insurers

By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) -The rollout of Biogen Inc’s Alzheimer’s drug is hitting new roadblocks as some large hospitals decide not to use it and many health insurers await coverage terms from Medicare, the U.S. health plan for people aged 65 and older, before setting their own policies.

Cleveland Clinic, one of the country’s best-known health systems, and New York’s Mount Sinai Health System on Thursday confirmed they had decided not to carry the new drug, called Aduhelm.

“The tide turned on Friday when the inspector general investigation was announced, and the potential allegation of irregularity in the FDA/Biogen relationship,” Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health, told Reuters.

The FDA called last week for an independent federal probe into its representatives’ interactions with Biogen.

Biogen shares fell nearly 8% on Thursday, or $25.21, to $324.85. Guggenheim analyst Yatin Suneja attributed the stock slump to the decision by the two hospital systems not to use the drug.

In mid-June, the Washington, D.C., Neurology Center said it would not recommend the treatment, which is given as a monthly infusion, for any of its patients due to concerns about efficacy, safety and cost.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, also known as aducanumab, in early June despite mixed clinical trial results. The agency said it was convinced that evidence of Aduhelm’s ability to clear amyloid brain plaques would benefit Alzheimer’s patients.

Biogen, which priced Aduhelm at $56,000 a year, said in a statement on Thursday that clinical data supported the drug’s approval and patients who are denied access should contact the company for help.

INSURERS ON HOLD

Insurers representing millions of American enrolled in private Medicare plans said the drug has yet to meet their bar for coverage based on the data.

UnitedHealth Group, the largest private insurer offering Medicare Advantage coverage to seniors, on Thursday said it was still reviewing the drug and awaiting input from Medicare.

“This has some way to go before we get to real clarity. So I wouldn’t guide you to expect a very rapid decision-making on this piece,” CEO Andrew Witty said.

Humana, the second largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans, also said it has not finalized coverage for Aduhelm as it awaits guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Several Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plans, including those in Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, have said there is insufficient evidence of Aduhelm’s benefit for patients and they will not provide coverage for the drug.

Biogen said in a statement that the several Blues plans’ “characterization of Aduhelm as experimental and investigational is inaccurate and misleading.”

CMS on Monday began a national review process it said would take nine months to complete. Until then, the agency said coverage determinations for aducanumab are being made at the local level by 12 regional contractors.

SVB Leerink this week said a survey of 57 U.S. neurologists who treat high volumes of Alzheimer’s patients found that 44% of them would use Aduhelm in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease who have evidence of amyloid plaques.

The Wall Street firm estimates sales of the drug at $65 million this year, $1.1 billion next year and $5 billion by 2025.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an influential pricing group, was holding a meeting on Thursday of doctors, patients and other stakeholders to discuss how Aduhelm’s cost stacks up against potential benefits to patients.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Additional reporting by Manas Mishra in Bangalaru and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Howard Goller)

States’ limits on police video access thwart grieving North Carolina family

By Julia Harte and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) – A North Carolina law that restricts the release of recordings from police cameras is complicating efforts by relatives of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed by sheriff’s deputies last week, to view the footage capturing his shooting death.

The family’s struggle reflects a hurdle faced in many U.S. states, where a thicket of complex laws limits public access to body-camera footage that can prove crucial in prosecutions of officers involved in such shootings.

U.S. law enforcement agencies are under mounting pressure to use body-worn cameras following high-profile police killings, including the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. Prosecutors used Chauvin’s body-camera footage – as well as video shot by a bystander – to help convince a jury to convict the former officer on April 20.

But widely varying laws mean some videos are released within hours – as in the April 20 police shooting of Ohio teenager Ma’Khia Bryant – while some remain out of public view.

Lawyers for Brown’s family vented their frustration on Monday over the paltry footage shown to them since sheriff’s deputies in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, killed Brown in his driveway on April 21 as they sought to arrest him on a drug warrant.

Family members and one of their lawyers were allowed to see 20 seconds from one body camera but have sought disclosure of footage from nine body cameras, dash cams and street cameras they said captured the killing.

“We want all of it. Because that’s what transparency is. Let us see it with our own eyes,” said lawyer Ben Crump, who also represented Floyd’s family.

The attorneys said the 20-second video showed sheriff’s deputies shooting at Brown while his hands were on the steering wheel of his car in his driveway, and then continuing to shoot as Brown attempted to drive away from them.

Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a statement on Monday that authorities were blurring “some faces” in the video before showing it to Brown’s family, citing the need to protect an active investigation.

Neither Cox nor the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests for comment about why only 20 seconds of footage was shown to Brown’s family, or their allegations that Brown was “executed.”

A 2016 North Carolina law lets law enforcement agencies decide whether to allow relatives of people in body-camera videos to view the footage, and how much they may see. The same law requires anyone seeking a copy of the recording to get approval from a superior court judge.

North Carolina’s rules are among “the most restrictive” in the country, according to Daniel Lawrence, a researcher at the Urban Institute who studies policing practices nationwide.

Privacy concerns and a desire to avoid influencing potential jurors in officer trials are typically why footage is kept private, he said.

But in most cases, Lawrence said, “it’s most beneficial to release an unedited, unredacted version for public consumption.”

Ann Webb, senior policy counsel at the ACLU of North Carolina, said the state’s law gives too much discretion to authorities and creates unnecessary delays by requiring a court order.

POLICE DISCRETION

About 47% of general-purpose law enforcement agencies had bought body-worn cameras in 2016, according to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

At least 12 states did not have rules specifically regulating the public’s access to footage from body-worn cameras as of October 2018, according to the Urban Institute. North Carolina had been one of them until Republican Governor Pat McCrory, flanked by law enforcement officers, signed the 2016 law.

Before then, each of the state’s more than 600 law enforcement agencies decided how to handle police camera footage, with some declaring it confidential and others releasing it more freely.

Now, when relatives of people in those videos ask to see them, North Carolina requires law enforcement agencies to disclose only portions that they deem are “relevant to the person’s request.” Similarly, when a court receives a petition to release footage, the law lets the court place “any conditions or restrictions” on the material.

Attorney Mike Tadych said it is difficult to request precise portions of recordings of officer-involved shootings where few details are known because “you’re being asked to describe something that you’ve never seen.”

His law firm, Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC, petitioned the Pasquotank County Superior Court on behalf of at least 16 news organizations on Monday morning to release a copy of the recordings of Brown’s death. Late Monday afternoon, the sheriff’s office also petitioned the court to release a copy.

A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on whether the body cam footage can be disclosed to media organizations.

(Reporting by Julia Harte and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Dan Grebler)

With final races called, Biden ends with 306 Electoral College votes, Trump 232: Edison Research

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the state of Georgia, while Trump won North Carolina, Edison Research projected on Friday as it called the final two states in the U.S. presidential race.

Edison Research said Biden had won 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. Biden had surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to capture the presidency on Saturday.

(Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Which states could tip U.S. election and when will they report results?

(Reuters) – Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s margins over Republican President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia grew on Friday, as the vote counts in five battleground states trickled in.

To capture the White House, a candidate must amass at least 270 votes in the Electoral College. Edison Research gave Biden a 253-214 lead over the incumbent.

Here is the state of play in the five states. The vote counts are supplied by Edison Research.

PENNSYLVANIA (20 electoral votes)

Biden has a lead of 13,558 votes, or a 0.2 percentage point margin, as of 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) Friday, with 96% of the estimated vote counted. Under Pennsylvania law, a recount is automatic if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage point of the total vote.

In Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, about 40,000 ballots remained to be counted, the majority of them provisional and military ballots, according to Pennsylvania’s election commissioner, who said the final count could take several days.

Friday is the last day that Pennsylvania can accept mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.

GEORGIA (16 electoral votes)

Biden is ahead of Trump by 1,554 votes as of 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) Friday, with 99% of votes counted according to Edison. Trump needs both Pennsylvania and Georgia to win a second term.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, said he expects the margin to be just a few thousand votes, which would trigger an automatic recount. A recount must wait until Georgia’s results are certified, expected on or before Nov. 20.

About 9,000 military and overseas ballots were still outstanding and could be accepted if they arrive on Friday as long as they were postmarked Tuesday or earlier.

ARIZONA (11 electoral votes)

Biden has 50.0% versus Trump at 48.6%, a lead of 43,779 votes, with 93.0% of the expected vote tallied as of 2 p.m. (1900 GMT).

Maricopa County, which includes heavily populated Phoenix, has 142,000 early ballots left to count, as well as some provisional ballots. Biden has a 3.2 percentage point lead in the county, with 92.2% of the estimated vote counted.

The majority of Maricopa’s votes could be tallied as soon as Saturday, said Megan Gilbertson, the communications director for the county’s elections department.

NEVADA (6 electoral votes)

Biden led Trump by 20,137 votes, or 1.6 percentage points, with about 8% of the vote left to be counted.

The state’s biggest county, Clark, which includes Las Vegas, has 63,000 ballots remaining to be counted. The next update of the vote count is expected at around 7 p.m. ET (0000 GMT) and the majority of mail-in ballots is expected to be counted by Sunday.

NORTH CAROLINA (15 electoral votes)

Trump led by 76,737 votes, or 1.4 points, with about 5% of the vote left to counted.

State officials have said a full result would not be known until next week. The state allows mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday to be counted if they are received by Nov. 12.

(Reporting by Leela de Kretser and Tiffany Wu; Editing by David Clarke and Leslie Adler)

Timeline: Which states could tip U.S. election and when will they report results?

(Reuters) – The outcome of the U.S. presidential election hung in the balance on Thursday as five swing states continued to count their ballots.

To capture the White House, a candidate must amass at least 270 votes in the Electoral College.

Edison Research gave Democratic challenger Biden a 243 against 213 lead over Republican President Donald Trump in Electoral College votes. Other networks said Biden had won Wisconsin, which would give him another 10 votes.

Results in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), Arizona (11) and Nevada (6) remained uncertain as of Thursday afternoon, according to Edison Research.

ARIZONA

Biden led by 2.4 percentage points as of Thursday afternoon, or more than 68,000 votes, with about 14% of the vote left to be counted.

More results from densely populated Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, were not expected until 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. EST, 0200 Friday GMT), the county elections department said.

There were at least 275,000 ballots in the county left to be counted, the elections department said. Biden was leading by 4 percentage points in the votes counted so far, indicating he was in a strong position to maintain his lead.

GEORGIA

Trump held onto to a lead of 0.3 percentage points, or 12,835 votes, with 2% percent of the vote left to be counted.

Counting was continuing on Thursday afternoon, with just 47,000 outstanding ballots, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a press conference.

NEVADA

Biden led Trump by 11,438 votes, or 0.9 percentage points, with about 12% of the vote left to be counted.

The state’s biggest county, Clark, expected to count the majority of its mail ballots by Saturday or Sunday, but would continue to count certain ballots after the weekend, according to its registrar, Joe Gloria.

All properly received ballots will be counted for up to nine days after the election, but the exact number left to be counted was unknown, said Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.

The outstanding votes are mail-in ballots and those cast by voters who registered to vote at polling place on Election Day, she said.

NORTH CAROLINA

Trump led by more than 76,000 votes, or 1.4 points, with about 5% of the vote uncounted.

State officials have said a full result would not be known until next week. The state allows mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday to be counted if they are received by Nov. 12.

PENNSYLVANIA

Trump led by 1.7 percentage points, or more than 108,000 votes, with 8% of the vote outstanding.

About 370,000 ballots were still in the process of being counted on Thursday, according to the Department of State’s website, giving Biden a chance to catch Trump if enough of them were from Democratically friendly areas such as Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she expected the “overwhelming majority” to be counted by the end of Thursday.

Philadelphia County reported more than 252,000 ballots were cast by mail but did say how many remained to be counted.

A final count may not be available until at least Friday as Pennsylvania can accept mailed-in ballots up to three days after the election if they were postmarked by Tuesday.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Julia Harte; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)

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)

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)

Explainer: ‘Dueling electors’ pose risk of U.S. vote deadlock

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – In the United States, a candidate becomes president by securing the most “electoral” votes rather than winning a majority of the national popular vote. Known as the Electoral College, the system allots electors to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on their population.

It is theoretically possible for the governor and legislature, each representing a different political party, to submit two different election results, leading to so-called “dueling slates of electors.”

Below are details of how that might play out.

What are electors?

The U.S. president is selected by 538 electors, known as the Electoral College, with electors apportioned based on each state’s population. The popular vote in each state typically determines which candidate receives a state’s electoral votes.

The U.S. Constitution and the 1887 Electoral Count Act govern the counting of electoral votes and any related disputes. The electors will meet on Dec. 14 to cast votes, which are then counted by Congress on Jan. 6 in a process overseen by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as Senate president.

What are dueling electors?

States with close contests between Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden could produce competing slates of electors, one certified by the governor and the other by the legislature.

The risk of this happening is heightened in the battleground states of Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which have Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures.

Some election law experts are concerned that an unprecedented volume of mailed-in votes and legal challenges will delay the outcome of the election for weeks, creating an extended period of uncertainty.

Trump has repeatedly said the election is rigged and made unfounded attacks on mail-in voting, which tends to favor Democrats.

If early returns show a Trump lead, experts say the president could press Republican-controlled legislatures to appoint electors favorable to him, claiming the initial vote count reflects the true outcome.

Governors in those same states could end up backing a separate slate of electors pledged to Biden if the final count showed the Democratic candidate had won.

Both sets of electors would meet and vote on Dec. 14 and the competing results would be sent to Congress.

Which set of electors would prevail?

Both chambers of Congress could accept the same slate of electors, which would almost certainly put the matter to rest.

The chambers could also split, which is more likely if the Republicans retain control of the Senate and Democrats hold onto their House majority.

If lawmakers cannot agree on a set of electors, the country will find itself in uncharted territory.

The Electoral Count Act, often described by academics as “unintelligible,” seems to favor the slate of electors certified by the state’s governor, according to Ned Foley, a professor at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

But Foley notes that some scholars and an analysis by the Congressional Research Service have rejected that conclusion.

Academics have sketched out several scenarios. Under one, Pence as president of the Senate could throw out both sets of a state’s electors. Another contemplates that the House of Representatives would end up choosing between Biden and Trump. There is even a scenario in which the Speaker of the House, currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi, could become acting president.

Would the U.S. Supreme Court get involved?

The Supreme Court may be called upon to interpret the Electoral College Act to break any deadlock.

A Supreme Court ruling helped resolve the 2000 election in favor of George Bush over Al Gore, but that case was about a recount in Florida and the decision was reached before electors met to cast their votes.

“I think there will be legal challenges,” said Jessica Levinson, director of Loyola Law School’s Public Service Institute. “But I could see a court saying this would really be better left up to Congress.”

Has this happened before?

In 1876, dueling electors in three states were deadlocked until a deal was brokered days before Inauguration Day.

The dispute was resolved after Republican Rutherford B. Hayes became president in exchange for withdrawing U.S. troops left over from the Civil War from Southern states.

“I hope it’s a very low probability event but 1876 is a reminder that it is not zero and we have come very close to falling over that cliff in our history,” Foley said.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis)

New U.S. COVID-19 cases rise in 27 states for two straight weeks

(Reuters) – The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has risen for two weeks in a row in 27 out of 50 states, with North Carolina and New Mexico both reporting increases above 50% last week, according to a Reuters analysis.

The United States recorded 316,000 new cases in the week ended Sept. 27, up 10% from the previous seven days and the highest in six weeks, according to the analysis of state and county data.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told ABC News that the country was “not in a good place.”

“There are states that are starting to show (an) uptick in cases and even some increases in hospitalizations in some states. And, I hope not, but we very well might start seeing increases in deaths,” he said, without naming the states.

North Carolina reported a 60% jump in new cases to 13,799 last week, while New Mexico saw new infections rise 55% to 1,265. Texas also reported a 60% jump in new cases to 49,559, though that included a backlog of several thousand cases.

Deaths from COVID-19 have generally declined for the past six weeks, though still stand at more than 5,000 lives lost a week. Deaths are a lagging indicator and generally rise weeks after a surge in cases.

Testing in the country set a record of over 880,000 tests a day, surpassing the previous high in July of 820,000.

Nationally, the share of all tests that came back positive for COVID-19 held steady at about 5%, well below a recent peak of nearly 9% in mid-July, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

However, 28 states have positive test rates above the 5% level that the World Health Organization considers concerning. The highest positive test rates are 26% in South Dakota, 21% in Idaho and 19% in Wisconsin.

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