Teachers may play role in in-school COVID-19 transmission: U.S. CDC

(Reuters) – Teachers may play an important role in the transmission of COVID-19 within schools, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday, citing a study conducted in elementary schools in a Georgia school district.

The report comes after researchers from the agency last month said there was little evidence that schools were spreading COVID-19 infections in the country – based in part on a study of schools in Wisconsin – easing concerns about allowing in-person learning. The Wisconsin study found significantly lower virus spread within schools compared with transmission in the surrounding communities.

An investigation involving about 2,600 students and 700 staff members of a Georgia school district’s elementary schools showed nine clusters of COVID-19 cases involving 13 educators and 32 students at six elementary schools, the CDC said.

Of these, two clusters involved probable teacher-to-teacher transmission that was followed by teacher-to-student transmission in classrooms, the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Transmission from teachers resulted in about half of 31 school-related cases, according to the investigation.

The study was subject to some limitations including difficulty in determining whether coronavirus transmission happened in school or out in the local community, the agency noted.

Distinguishing between the two types of transmission was particularly challenging when the 7-day average number of cases per 100,000 persons exceeded 150, the agency said.

The CDC said COVID-19 vaccination of educators should be considered as an additional mitigation measure to be added when available, although not required for reopening schools.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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)

Judge rules probable cause U.S. teenager committed crimes in Wisconsin protest shootings

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – A judge ruled on Thursday there was probable cause that U.S. teenager Kyle Rittenhouse committed felonies in fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third during protests in Wisconsin over the summer, clearing one of the final hurdles before trial.

The shootings occurred in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin amid civil unrest sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said he was helping protect property and that he acted in self defense.

Rittenhouse, 17, was charged with first-degree homicide and five other criminal counts related to the shootings, in which Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed and Gaige Grosskreutz was wounded. The charges also include two lesser charges for illegal possession of a weapon by a minor and for allegedly endangering the safety of journalist Richard McGinnis.

Loren Keating, a Kenosha County judicial court commissioner, on Thursday denied a motion by Rittenhouse’s lawyer to dismiss the two lesser charges and said the evidence was sufficient for the case to go to trial.

“I do find the state has demonstrated probable cause that in this case felonies were committed relating to the counts in the complaint,” Keating said at a preliminary hearing, advancing the prosecution’s case another step towards trial.

Rittenhouse was extradited in late October from his home state of Illinois to Kenosha to face the charges. Rittenhouse, who has become a cause celebre of sorts for the political right, posted $2 million bail after a public fundraising campaign.

Rittenhouse’s legal team have said their client feared for his life when he fired his semi-automatic rifle on Aug. 25 in Kenosha. Cellphone videos from the night show chaotic scenes, including one where Rittenhouse is chased and falls down before his encounter with Huber and Grosskreutz, who had a handgun.

In questioning of a detective testifying for the state on Thursday, Richards appeared to offer a preview of the likely defense.

“In your investigation and looking at all the hours of videos did you ever see Kyle act inappropriate towards somebody who was not threatening him with a firearm,” Richards asked, before Keating sustained an objection to the question.

“Mr. Richards, here’s the key: you have an opportunity at trial,” Keating said.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump campaign challenges election results in Wisconsin Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump campaign said it filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging Wisconsin’s results in the 2020 presidential election in the state’s Supreme Court, the latest in a series of legal challenges to the Nov. 3 election.

“Today’s suit includes four cases with clear evidence of unlawfulness, such as illegally altering absentee ballot envelopes, counting ballots that had no required application, overlooking unlawful claims of indefinite confinement, and holding illegal voting events called Democracy in the Park,” the campaign said in a statement.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Franklin Paul)

U.S. death toll from COVID-19 nears quarter million as infection rates soar

By Gabriella Borter and Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States approached 250,000 on Wednesday, the day after the country recorded the highest number of victims in nearly four months, a chilling sign for a healthcare system already struggling to cope.

On Tuesday, the pandemic claimed 1,596 lives in the United States, more than on any single day since July 27, contributing to a total of 248,898 confirmed deaths since the pandemic began, according to a Reuters tally.

For weeks, health officials and healthcare workers have warned that hospitals in all regions could soon become overwhelmed, with widespread community transmission of the virus evident in many places.

“I’m the most concerned I’ve been since this pandemic started,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told CNN on Wednesday.

Nationwide, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 topped 75,000 on Tuesday, setting a new record. The Midwest has become the epicenter, reporting almost a half-million cases in the week ending on Monday. In Wisconsin, 90.6% of Intensive Care Unit beds were occupied as of Wednesday, state data showed.

Forty-one U.S. states have reported daily record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, 20 have registered new all-time highs in coronavirus-related deaths from day to day, and 26 have reported new peaks in hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally of public health data.

Government officials in at least 18 states, representing both sides of the U.S. political divide, have issued sweeping new public health mandates this month. These range from stricter limits on social gatherings and non-essential businesses to new requirements for wearing masks in public places.

Even officials who initially bristled at the idea of the government imposing social restrictions have changed tune as the virus has spread.

In South Dakota, about 2% of residents currently have COVID-19, according to state data. The city of Sioux Falls voted to institute a mask mandate on Tuesday night, a week after Mayor Paul TenHaken voted the mandate down. TenHaken shifted to supporting the ordinance after the South Dakota State Medical Association urged the city council to mandate masks. State Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has continued to oppose government restrictions to curb COVID-19.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday called the wave of new restrictions an overreach by state and local officials.

“The American people know how to protect their health,” she told Fox News in an interview. “We don’t lose our freedom in this country. We make responsible health decisions as individuals.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Maria Caspani; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Wisconsin to hold partial vote recount

By Jarrett Renshaw and Jason Lange

WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Wednesday requested a partial recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election results, as part of its long-shot attempt to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

While staying out of the public eye, the Republican Trump has persisted in venting his anger on Twitter, where he made claims of election fraud, some of which were unsupported by evidence and others demonstrably untrue.

Election officials in Wisconsin, as well as in Georgia, said recounts in those states were very unlikely to reverse Trump’s losses.

Biden, a Democrat, warned that the continued delay in recognizing him as winner could mean the United States will be “behind by weeks and months” in the preparations to distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump’s unfounded claims about the election having been “rigged” are failing in courts, but opinion polls show they have a political benefit, with as many as half of Trump’s fellow Republicans believing them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission said it would oversee recounts in two heavily Democratic counties – Milwaukee and Dane, which includes Madison – after the Trump campaign paid the $3 million cost, less than the $7.9 million estimated cost of a statewide recount.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said a recount would start on Friday and finish within days. Only a few hundred votes changed in the county’s recount after the 2016 presidential election, he said.

“My guess would be that by focusing on Dane and Milwaukee the end result will be that Biden will have a slight increase in votes, but nothing terribly significant – certainly nothing anywhere near what would be required for changing the outcomes,” McDonell said.

In the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the election winner, Biden captured 306 votes to Trump’s 232. He won the popular vote by more than 5.8 million.

Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes to lead Trump 49.5% to 48.8%.

To remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three large and closely competitive states to reach the threshold of 270 electoral votes. That would be unprecedented.

The president is clinging to hope that a manual recount ordered by Georgia can erase Biden’s 14,000-vote lead there and is also challenging results in the swing state of Michigan.

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, told journalists that as of Wednesday morning, election officials conducting the recount had reviewed 4,968,000 ballots – nearly all of those cast – and found Biden’s lead over Trump had fallen to 12,781 ballots, down from 14,156 previously.

Sterling said there was no evidence that fraud could have changed the outcome in Georgia.

FALSE CLAIM ON DETROIT

Trump on Wednesday falsely claimed that the number of votes counted in heavily Democratic Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, had surpassed the number of residents.

“In Detroit, there are FAR MORE VOTES THAN PEOPLE. Nothing can be done to cure that giant scam. I win Michigan!” he tweeted.

City records show that 250,138 votes were cast there in the presidential election. That is a little more than a third of the city’s population, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau is 670,031.

In a rare win for Trump in his legal assault on the election results, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said on Wednesday it would take up an appeal challenging thousands of mail-in votes cast in Philadelphia that were missing information on the return envelopes.

Trump’s refusal to concede the Nov. 3 election is blocking the smooth transition to a new administration and complicating Biden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office on Jan. 20.

Biden on Wednesday held a virtual meeting with frontline healthcare workers in Delaware who complained about a lack of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests for themselves.

He warned that the delay in declaring him the election winner could mean that “soon we’re going to be behind by weeks or months being able to put together the whole initiative” to distribute coronavirus vaccines when they become available.

The General Services Administration agency, run by a Trump appointee, has yet to formally declare an election winner. Biden’s team says this is hindering coordination with the current White House coronavirus task force.

States face a Dec. 8 deadline to certify election results in time for the official Electoral College vote on Dec. 14.

Congress is scheduled to count the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, which is normally a formality. But Trump supporters in the Senate and House of Representatives could object to the results in a final, long-shot attempt to deprive Biden of 270 electoral votes and turn the final decision over to the House.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed about half of Republicans believe Trump “rightfully won” but the election was stolen from him.

Seventy-three percent of all voters polled agreed Biden won while 5% thought Trump won. But when asked specifically whether Biden had “rightfully won,” 52% of Republicans said Trump rightfully won, while only 29% said Biden had rightfully won.

Election officials from both parties, around the United States, have said there was no evidence of vote tampering, and a federal review drew the same conclusion.

As he battles to save his presidency, Trump will stay in Washington over next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, rather than travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump said.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Delaware, Jason Lange, John Whitesides and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

U.S. COVID-19 cases cross 11 million as pandemic intensifies

By Roshan Abraham and Seerat Gupta

(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in the United States crossed the 11-million mark on Sunday reaching yet another grim milestone, according to a Reuters tally, as the third wave of COVID-19 infections surged across the country.

Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic in the United States has quickened, with one million more new cases from just 8 days ago when it hit 10 million, making it the fastest since the pandemic began. This compares with 10 days it took to get from 9 to 10 million and 16 days it took to reach 9 million from 8 million cases.

The United States, hardest-hit by the coronavirus, crossed 10 million COVID-19 cases on November 8 and is reporting over 100,000 daily cases for the past 11 days straight.

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.

Texas and California have reported the highest number of COVID-19 infections across the United States, together accounting for about 2.1 million cases or about 19% of the total cases since the pandemic began, according to Reuters analysis.

As COVID-19 related hospitalizations continue to rise, crossing 69,000 on Saturday, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers have stressed the need to control the pandemic, warning that local healthcare systems are at a tipping point.

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

Illinois, which has emerged as the pandemic’s new epicenter in the region as well as across the country, reported a record 15,433 new cases on Friday, the most of any state in a 24-hour period, surpassing the previous all-time high of 15,300 set by Florida in July.

Several states this week re-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus across the nation. North Dakota became the latest state to require that face coverings be worn in public, as it joins 39 other states this month in reporting record daily jumps in new cases.

State governors urged residents to stay home as much as possible, including Nevada Democrat Steve Sisolak, who said late on Friday that he became the fourth governor to become infected with the virus.

The United States accounts for about 20% of more than 54 million global cases and close to 19% of the 1.31 million deaths reported worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

(Reporting by Roshan Abraham and Seerat Gupta in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft)

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

By Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Rules for recounts in presidential battleground states

By Disha Raychaudhuri

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign has called for a recount in Wisconsin, filed lawsuits to stop vote counting in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and asked a judge in Georgia to order late-arriving ballots to be separated and secured so that they cannot be counted.

Below is a roundup of recount laws in some battleground states:

GEORGIA

Automatic recount: No

Recount law: A candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage point.

Deadline: A recount must be requested within two business days after results have been certified.

Who pays: State law does not specify who is responsible for recount costs.

MICHIGAN

Automatic recount: Yes

Recount law: A recount is required if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 2,000 votes.

Deadline: Request for a recount should be made within 48 hours of the vote canvass.

Who pays: The candidate requesting the recount.

NEVADA

Automatic recount: No

Recount law: A candidate who has been defeated can request a recount, regardless of the margin of victory.

Deadline: A recount must be requested within three business days after the state’s vote canvass.

Who pays: The candidate asking for the recount.

PENNSYLVANIA

Automatic recount: Yes

Recount law: A recount is automatic if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage point. Two other avenues for requesting recounts include requiring at least three voter signatures that attest to an error in the vote tally, and going to state court to file petitions alleging fraud and error.

Deadline: By 5 p.m. on the second Thursday following the election, for automatic recounts. If a recount is requested, the deadline is five days after the election.

Who pays: The candidate requesting the recount.

WISCONSIN

Automatic recount: No

Recount law: A full or partial recount can be requested if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 1 percentage point.

Deadline: For presidential elections, the request must be made by 5 p.m. on the first business day after the state’s vote canvass.

Who pays: The candidate requesting the recount, if the margin is more than 0.25 percentage point of the total vote.

(Reporting by Disha Raychaudhuri; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)