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(DENVER) -- A couple married for 68 years who wanted to stay with their dream home adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park died this week in the East Troublesome Fire after refusing evacuation help from friends, family and local authorities, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office.

Lyle and Marylin Hileman, ages 86 and 84, were last heard from on Wednesday when their son, Glenn Hileman, spoke with them over the phone.

Hileman, in a note to ABC News, said his parents called him to say, "it's here ... the entire valley is on fire." The couple said they were going to take their chances in the basement and that he should call his siblings.

"They were calm, resolute and adamant – they would not leave," Hileman said.

After calling his siblings to tell them the news, Hileman said he tried to contact his parents again but was unsuccessful.

A friend and local safety officials, according to the family, drove through roadblocks in an effort to rescue the couple, but all offers to leave were refused. "Their only desire was to be together in the home they loved," the family said in a statement.

Their bodies were found Friday.

"To the Hileman family: I'm extremely sorry for your loss. Every family is important, and your family is just as important. Please know that our rescuers and responders - your friends, family and neighbors - did everything possible this evening to save your family," Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said at a press conference Friday.

The couple, married as teenagers in 1952, bought the property "with everything they had" in the 70s with a vision of developing the land.

The family said Lyle and Marylin Hileman made it their "life-long mission" to make their property at Grand Lake "heaven on Earth," where anyone was welcome, according to a statement from the family.

"They were together and calm. There is no other way they would’ve preferred to leave this life and certainly nowhere else they would have selected as a final resting place," Hileman told ABC News. "They will be deeply missed by all who knew them. We consider the property sacred and Grand Lake to be a magical wonderland."

The East Troublesome fire exploded by more than 100,000 acres Wednesday, forcing widespread evacuations. It has burned more than 186,000 acres and is only 4% contained.

There are no other missing persons from the fire, according to Schroetlin.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The fire danger in parts of the West, especially in parts of California is looking quite significant.

A major offshore wind event is coming to California and extreme southern Oregon. Red flag warnings and fire weather alerts have been posted for large parts of the state including, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The event will begin on Sunday and last into Tuesday. Wind gusts could top out at 75 mph, and relative humidity could be as low as 4%.

This could be a very significant fire weather set up, especially for the Bay Area, and into parts of Northern California.

The most damaging wind gusts will arrive late Sunday into Monday in the Bay Area and northern California. The National Weather Service is comparing this event setup to the 2017 Wine County Fires and the 2019 Kincade Fire.

All of this comes just weeks after the August Complex burned over 1 million acres of northern California.

In Colorado, the East Troublesome Fire is now at least 188,000 acres and is still only 5% contained. The fire grew by over 17,000 acres on Friday. Although this is less than previous days, that is still quite considerable.

Winds were a little calmer on Friday and relative humidity has been higher, which has helped firefighters battling the blazes. Unfortunately, the winds will strengthen Saturday, and it will be another challenging day for fire containment efforts in Colorado.

Red flag warnings have been issued for parts of Colorado and Utah, where wind gusts to 60 mph can be expected Saturday, and relative humidity as low as 10%. These conditions could produce more fires and rapid fire spread.

The relatively good news is that a winter storm is on the way to Colorado, and a widespread snow event is expected to arrive in Colorado Saturday night, which will greatly help the firefighting efforts.

Winter weather alerts stretch from Washington to Iowa Saturday morning. This includes a winter storm watch for Denver, and the Colorado Rockies, where the fires are burning.

Some snow may even make it into the Twin Cities metro region, which has now seen its snowiest October on record with 8.9 inches.

Spokane, Washington, got 6.8 inches of snow on Friday, which made it their snowiest October day on record. Around a foot of snow has also been reported in the mountains of western Montana. Snow totals in parts of the highest peaks of Montana could top out at 18 inches. The heavy snow and cold will expand south and east through the weekend.

Through Monday, over 12 inches of snow in parts of the Colorado Rockies and 3 to 6 inches through parts of the central and northern Plains are expected.

By Monday some of the snow will likely make it into parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Some of the snow is likely to fall as mixed precipitation and could create icy conditions close to the I-34 corridor, especially near Oklahoma City and northern Texas.

Behind this storm, winter air will race down into the central and northern U.S. Wind chills on Sunday morning will be into the negatives from Idaho to North Dakota. Island Park, Idaho, is expected to have a -17 wind chill.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Narvikk/iStockBy ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(COUER d'ALENE, Idaho) -- When it comes to caring for patients with coronavirus in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and surrounding rural areas, Kootenai Health is the only game in town.

"We're pretty much it," said Andrea Nagel, a spokesperson at the hospital, in the northern part of the state near the border with Washington. Critical access hospitals in nearby areas transfer patients they can't handle to Kootenai, and as Idaho's daily COVID-19 cases tick upward space at the hospital is dwindling.

While the number of free beds fluctuates, medical surgical units were 96% full on Friday, according to Nagel, and staff have been calling out-of-state hospitals in Spokane, Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City to see if they have extra beds should Kootenai become overrun.

Nagel was careful to add that the emergency room at Kootenai is open and anyone who needs emergency care, COVID-related or otherwise, still can get it.

"We're hanging in there," she said of the staff, who are starting to feel the pandemic fatigue health care workers in New York and New Jersey described during the spring. Despite the rising cases, however, the regional health department board voted to end Kootenai County's mask mandate earlier this week, according to The Associated Press.

The anti-science backlash from some community members, including comments on social media, taken an additional toll on the hospital workers.

"It's definitely difficult for them," Nagel said. "I know a lot of our medical staff are struggling with that."

On Thursday, the state health department reported 950 new COVID-19 cases, bringing cumulative infections to 56,000 since the outbreak began.

In addition to rising cases and hospitalizations, an average of 34% of tests were positive every day in the past week in Idaho, as of Thursday, according to an ABC analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. That's nearly seven times the rate that health experts recommend staying below.

A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.

At least 553 people in Idaho have died of the virus so far, according to the health department.

Unlike the cities and metro areas that got hit hard earlier this year, Idaho is decidedly rural. The state's population of less than 1.8 million means there are about 18 people living on each square mile, compared to the national average of 87, according to Census data Idaho's outbreak is also part of a larger pattern. With just three counties left in the United States with zero COVID-19 cases, rural areas are increasing becoming hotspots.

The trend is especially concerning given that so many rural communities that used to have hospitals recently lost them -- 95 rural hospitals closed between January 2010 and January 2019, according to the Department of Health and Human Services's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Of those facilities, 32 were critical access hospitals.

Beyond access to health services, rural populations tend to be older and to have morbidities, like smoking, hypertension and obesity, which can be risk factors for severe and fatal cases of COVID-19, Courtney Gidengil, a senior physician policy researcher at RAND, previously told ABC News.

As it stands, 1 in 5 Americans live in rural America.

ABC News' Soorin Kim, Brian Hartman, Benjamin Bell and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/PoolBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Mail delivery standards in parts of the country remain well below levels prior to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's cost-cutting overhaul of the Postal Service in July, a new report from a Senate Democrat found Friday, casting renewed scrutiny on the beleaguered agency and its controversial leader.

"It is unacceptable that on-time mail delivery has not been restored to levels prior to the Postmaster General carelessly instituting his disastrous operational changes," said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

First-class mail across the country was delivered on-time in 85.6% of cases in mid-October, down from an average of 91% earlier this year, according to a report Peters published late Friday.

After DeJoy put in place a series of measures meant to curb wasted trips for mail carriers and cut employees' overtime, first-class mail performance plummeted to 81.5% in August, according to the report.

Peters' analysis, which collated data provided to him by the Postal Service, noted that several major cities, including Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia, are suffering the lowest percentage of on-time deliveries.

"While the Postal Service has made some improvements since congressional oversight and federal litigation against Postmaster General DeJoy's actions began," Peters wrote in the report, "on-time delivery levels remain unacceptably low."

The U.S. Postal Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Despite the bleak portrait painted in Peters' report, one figure will alleviate some of Americans' anxiety: election mail is performing well.

While comprehensive data was not available, Peters wrote that "recent USPS data shows that on-time processing rates for the subset of election mail able to be tracked is above 90%."

DeJoy, a longtime logistics company executive, faced backlash within months of taking the helm at the Postal Service in June for putting in place measures that critics said would slow mail service.

His changes coincided with unfounded rhetoric from President Donald Trump casting doubt on the efficacy of mail-in voting, prompting allegations that DeJoy's overhaul might indirectly serve to support the president's claims. The Postal Service has consistently maintained that it is committed to delivering election mail on time, but in a letter to lawmakers in August, DeJoy acknowledged that his reforms had led to some "unintended consequences."

In the intervening months, the Postal Service has suffered multiple defeats in federal courts across the country stemming from lawsuits that challenged DeJoy's overhaul. In September, the agency said it would halt all operational changes until after November.

More Americans than ever are expected to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election. With nearly two weeks until Election Day, more than 52 million votes have already been cast and at least 85.5 million ballots have been requested, according to the U.S. Elections Project, run by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(SALT LAKE CITY) -- A Utah man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to the killing of University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck.

Ayoola Ajayi addressed the court to offer an apology for Lueck's June 2019 slaying. The victim and her killer met on a "sugar daddy" dating website, according to Ajayi's lawyer.

"I'm sorry for what I did," Ajayi said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. "I know this won't bring her back."

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told ABC News after court, "I'm glad that he said that he was sorry. Do I believe that he was sorry? No, I don't."

Gill called Ajayi a "manipulator," who was "cold and calculated enough to not see the humanity and dignity of the person in front of him."

Lueck's parents also spoke in court, reflecting on how Lueck, a 23-year-old kinesiology major, was about to graduate from college with her whole life ahead of her. But now they'll never see her get married or have children, the Tribune reported.

Gill called the Lueck family "incredibly good people who had a terrible, heinous reality thrust upon their lives."

"All we can hope is to give them an opportunity to move forward ... with the knowledge that this person will never ever see freedom again," Gill said.

In June 2019, after connecting on the dating website, Lueck and Ajayi met up at a park. They then went to Ajayi's Salt Lake City home where he killed her and buried her in his yard, Ajayi's lawyer Neal Hamilton has said, according to The Associated Press.

After police came to question Ajayi, he moved her body to Logan Canyon, over 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.

In July 2019, Lueck's charred remains were found in a shallow grave in Logan Canyon. Her arms were bound behind her back by a zip tie and rope, prosecutors said.

There was no motive, according to the district attorney.

"Some people have a profit motive, anger or whatever. There isn't one here other than murder for murder's sake," Gill said.

Earlier this month, Ajayi pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecration of a human body. As part of the plea agreement, he'll spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole, prosecutors said. Ajayi also pleaded guilty to forcible sex abuse in a separate case, prosecutors said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


BlakeDavidTaylor/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News

(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) -- A self-described member of the 'Boogaloo Bois' has been charged with participating in a riot after he allegedly shot 13 rounds from an AK-47 style assault rifle into a Minneapolis Police Department building during the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in late May.

Ivan Hunter, 26, is accused of traveling from Texas to Minneapolis to meet up with other members of the 'Boogaloo Bois' with the goal of carrying out acts of violence during the riots.

The FBI describes the 'Boogaloo Bois' as a loosely-connected group driven by militant anti-government sentiments. Members of the group regularly refer to the 'Boogaloo' as an impending civil war they expect will be incited by accelerationist acts of terror.

Federal investigators said they reviewed video of Hunter firing rounds with his AK-47 style assault rifle into the Third Precinct building while looters were still inside and that he also helped assist them in setting the building on fire.

According to an FBI affidavit, after shooting into the building Hunter hi-fived another individual and while walking towards the camera yelled, "Justice for Floyd!"

The affidavit additionally states that Hunter was pinned as the shooter by an unidentified cooperating defendant.

Hunter is the third 'Boogaloo Bois' member to face federal charges for his role in the Minneapolis riots, along with Michael Solomon and Benjamin Teeter -- who were previously indicted on charges of conspiracy to provide material support for a foreign terrorist organization. All three were communicating and coordinating their movements regularly through the night of the riots, according to the FBI affidavit.

During the course of the FBI's investigation of Hunter they additionally found he was connected to Boogaloo Bois member Steven Carillo who has been separately charged in the murder of a Federal Protective Officer in Oakland, California.

The two are alleged to have exchanged messages immediately after both the arson of the Third Precinct building and the murder of the FPS officer where Carillo stated he was "currently in hide mode." Responding to a message from Hunter where he stated Carillo should "go for police buildings," Carillo allegedly responded, "I did better lol."

After the riots, Hunter also posted to Facebook bragging about his actions in Minneapolis writing, “I helped the community burn down that police station in Minneapolis," adding, “I didn’t’ protest peacefully Dude ... Want something to change? Start risking felonies for what is good.”

He also wrote that BLM protesters "loved me [sic] fireteam and I."

The U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota said Hunter was taken into custody Wednesday. It was not immediately clear as of Friday afternoon whether he has had an attorney assigned to his case.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Samara Heisz/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide.

Over 41.9 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The criteria for diagnosis -- through clinical means or a lab test -- has varied from country to country. Still, the actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the virus has rapidly spread to every continent except Antarctica.

The United States is the worst-affected country, with more than 8.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 223,381 deaths.

California has the most cases of any U.S. state, with more than 894,000 people diagnosed, according to Johns Hopkins data. California is followed by Texas and Florida, with over 871,000 cases and over 771,000 cases, respectively.

Nearly 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least 10 of which are in crucial phase three studies. Of those 10 potential vaccines in late-stage trials, there are currently five that will be available in the United States if approved.

Here's how the news developed Friday. All times Eastern:

Oct 23, 3:44 pm
Researchers say wearing masks could save over 100,000 lives through February

Researchers at the University of Washington "find that achieving universal mask use (95% mask use in public) could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states,"according to a paper published in Nature.

Universal mask use could save 129,574 (85,284–170,867) lives from Sept. 22 through the end of February 2021, the researchers said.

Assuming just 85% of people wear masks, 95,814 (60,731–133,077) lives could be saved, the researchers said.

ABC News' Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

Oct 23, 1:54 pm
Delta puts 460 passengers on 'no-fly list' due to mask violations

Delta has added 460 people to its "no-fly list for refusing to comply with our mask requirement," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an internal memo to employees.

"Wearing a mask is among the simplest and most effective actions we can take to reduce transmission, which is why Delta has long required them for our customers and our people," Bastian wrote Thursday.

United said it has banned 335 customers from traveling on the airline due to noncompliance with the company's policy.

ABC News' Gio Benitez contributed to this report.

Oct 23, 12:10 pm
Washington Football Team to allow 3,000 fans at stadium

The Washington Football Team will allow about 3,000 season ticket holders to attend its Nov. 8 game against the New York Giants, the team said Friday.

Everyone must wear a mask, use mobile ticketing, follow social distancing rules and pay without cash. Tailgating won't be allowed, the team said.

The decision was made with "the state of Maryland's approval and under the supervision of Prince George's County," the team said, adding that it'll continue to re-evaluate fan numbers for future games.

ABC News' Leonardo Mayorga contributed to this report.

Oct 23, 11:54 am
Santa’s visit to Macy’s will be virtual this year

Despite a tradition started in 1861, Santa won’t be making his yearly trip to Macy’s New York City store this year due to the pandemic. Instead, his visit will be virtual.

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 24, families can take part in an “interactive, virtual experience” on the Macy’s website, Macy’s said in a statement Thursday.

"A special greeting from Santaland elves at the North Pole-bound train station kicks off the interaction," Macy’s said. "From there, the Elves will lead the way through Santa’s Village and Workshop, stopping to see the sights and play interactive games. At the finale of the journey, kids will meet Santa through a whimsical interactive video where they will be able to share their holiday wish list followed by snapping a selfie with Santa."

"Santa will also drop by @macys handles on a number of social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to engage with fans in his uniquely whimsical way," Macy’s added.

Oct 23, 11:48 am
Trump administration delivering 125 million masks to states to help reopen schools, but still not tracking school outbreaks

The U.S. government is on track to distribute 125 million cloth masks to states and territories by the end of November to help reopen schools, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.

The 125 million masks were split evenly among adult and youth sizes. The distribution of adult-sized masks is complete, while the child-sized masks are being distributed as soon as they are manufactured. State governments are expected to handle distribution of the masks to schools.

The initiative is a small step in what remains a heavy lift for most local areas -- devising metrics that decide when a school opens or closes, and figuring out how to keep the novel coronavirus away from teachers, bus drivers and parents who could spread it throughout the broader community.

There is still no coordinated effort by the federal government to track COVID-19 outbreaks at schools nor to examine how students are -- or aren't -- contributing to community transmission. Most studies are limited in scope, often relying on schools that are willing to self-report cases. The lack of a nationwide tracking effort has prompted widespread frustration and confusion among parents and teachers on what benchmarks should be used for schools.

In a call with reporters Friday, a senior official with the U.S. Department of Education confirmed there was no effort underway by the administration to conduct a nationwide examination of school outbreaks.

"We feel that that option is, of course, best left to local leaders, those decisions," said Aimee Viana, principal deputy assistant secretary for the office of elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.

President Donald Trump falsely claimed at Thursday night’s debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden that "the transmittal rate to the teachers is very small."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the role children play in community transmission of COVID-19 isn’t fully understood, but its recently update guidance notes a "body of evidence is growing" that kids "might play a role in transmission."

The CDC and other health officials largely agree that if a community can get the virus under control, schools are safe to open.

Schools haven't been studied as closely because many remain closed and not every school is reporting outbreaks. One concern is that children might be transmitting the virus without exhibiting symptoms, and testing people without symptoms remains limited.

"That doesn’t mean that communities are on their own," Viana said. “The Trump administration will continue as we’ve done since the beginning of the outbreak to extend flexibilities and freedom to open safely and to ensure that that learning continues in each community."

ABC News' Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Oct 23, 10:14 am
Poland sees record rise in new cases ahead of nationwide 'red zone' restrictions

Poland confirmed 13,632 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the country's highest figure since the pandemic began.

An additional 153 deaths from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide, down from a peak of 168 a day earlier. The cumulative total now stands at 228,318 cases and 4,172 deaths, according to the Polish Ministry of Health.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that, starting Saturday, the entire nation of 38 million people will be placed in a "red zone" of strict measures aimed at curbing further spread of the novel coronavirus, just short of a lockdown. The measures include wearing masks at all times outdoors, switching all primary schools to remote learning and the closure of restaurants except for takeaway and delivery services.

"We absolutely must cut the means of transmission of infection," Morawiecki said.

Oct 23, 9:34 am
Halloween still on at the White House, but with 'extra precautions'

The White House grounds will open to costumed trick-or-treaters on Sunday for the annual Halloween festivities, but with "extra precautions" in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement from the first lady's office.

All guests are required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing during their visit. All personnel working the event must wear a face covering, while any staff passing out candy will be required to wear gloves. Guest capacity will be limited, with extended event hours.

Social distancing measures will be in place, and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the event route. Each department will utilize a "no-touch approach" when distributing product in their area.

The statement said President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will "greet" trick-or-treaters as they pass by the South Portico of the White House. In previous years, the couple have handed out candy themselves.

Oct 23, 9:11 am
France hits new record of over 41,000 new cases in a day

France confirmed 41,622 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, its highest single-day count since the start of the pandemic.

The country's public health agency also registered an additional 165 fatalities from COVID-19 in 24 hours. The cumulative total now stands at 999,043 cases with 34,210 deaths.

France has the seventh-highest case count in the world, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 10,000 patients remain hospitalized for COVID-19 across France, including 1,627 in intensive care, according to the public health agency.

COVID-19 patients now take up more than 60% of all intensive care beds in hospitals across the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France, a spokesperson for the regional health agency told ABC News. That figure is up from 59.3% on Tuesday.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday that a 9 p.m. curfew already in place in Paris and eight other major cities would be extended to cover 54 of the country's 94 administrative departments. Some 46 million residents will be under the curfew by Saturday night.

Oct 23, 8:16 am
Russia reports over 17,000 new cases for first time

Russia confirmed 17,340 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, setting a new national record, according to the coronavirus response headquarters.

It's the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that Russia's daily case count has surpassed 17,000. The country's previous record of 16,319 new cases was set on Tuesday.

An additional 283 deaths from COVID-19 were also registered in the last 24 hours, down from a peak of 317 on Wednesday, according to Russia's coronavirus response headquarters.

Almost a third of the new cases -- 5,478 -- and nearly 21% of the deaths -- 61 -- were reported in the capital, Moscow, the epicenter of the country's outbreak and recent surge.

The cumulative totals now stand at 1,480,646 cases and 25,525 fatalities, according to Russia's coronavirus response headquarters.

The Eastern European country of 145 million people has the fourth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India and Brazil, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Oct 23, 7:32 am
A quarter of US hospitals have 80% of ICU beds full, HHS memo says

A quarter of hospitals across the United States have intensive care units that are more than 80% occupied, according to an internal memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that was obtained by ABC News on Thursday night.

That figure is up from the summertime peak, when 17-18% of U.S. hospitals had 80% of ICU beds full.

The memo, which is circulated among the highest levels of the federal government and is used to determine daily priorities for the agencies working on a COVID-19 response, said 41 U.S. states and territories are in an upward trajectory of new infections, while five jurisdictions are at a plateau and nine others are in a downward trend.

There were 417,899 new cases confirmed during the period of Oct. 15-21, a 14% increase from the previous week. There were also 5,413 fatalities from COVID-19 recorded during the same period, a 10.6% increase compared with the week prior, according to the memo.

Meanwhile, the national positivity rate for COVID-19 tests increased from 5.1% to 5.8% in week-to-week comparisons, the memo said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alaska reached a four-month peak, with the state's daily average increasing to 8.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 people during the period of Oct. 12-18, compared to 5.9 per 100,000 the previous week. Adults in their 20s and 30s were said to be driving the state's outbreak, according to the memo.

Idaho's positivity rate for COVID-19 tests increased to 16.7% during the week ending Oct.14, more than triple the national rate of 5.4% for that time period. The state's ICU hospitalizations related to COVID-19 reached a record high of 61 patients on Oct. 15, the memo said.

Montana reported 393 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, more than triple the national average of 117 per 100,000. The state has the third-highest rate of new infections in the country, according to the memo.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Mexico increased by 101% in the first half of October. The state reported a 51.9% jump in new cases and a 21.1% increase in new deaths in the week ending Oct. 18, compared to the prior week, the memo said.

Oklahoma saw a record high of 821 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Oct. 20, according to the memo.

In Oregon, cases are at the highest point they have been since the start of the pandemic, the memo said.

South Dakota has the second-highest rate of new cases in the country and the fourth-highest test positivity rate. The test positivity rate is on the rise in 45 counties, suggesting it has not yet peaked. Out of all South Dakota counties, 82% have moderate or high levels of community transmission, with 71% having high levels of community transmission, according to the memo.

Tennessee reported 3,317 new cases on Oct. 19, its highest single-day increase to date. The previous record of 3,314 new cases was reported on July 13.

Texas' cumulative total of cases surpassed 800,000 on Oct. 13, becoming only the second state in the country to do so.

Oct 23, 6:54 am
US reports over 70,000 new cases for first time since July

There were 71,671 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States on Thursday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the highest daily tally the country has reported since mid-July, almost surpassing the national record of more than 77,000 new cases in a single day. The latest case count was also nearly 9,000 more than the previous day.

An additional 856 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide Thursday, down by from a peak of 2,666 new deaths in mid-April.

A total of 8,409,312 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 223,051 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country's cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 70,000 for the first time in mid-July.

The daily tally of new cases has gradually come down since then but has started to climb again in recent weeks and is now averaging around 60,000 per day.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


kali9/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- Investigators in Rochester, New York, are offering up to $10,000 for information on a September shooting that killed two teenagers and injured more than a dozen others.

Police announced the reward alongside grieving families on Thursday, urging witnesses to come forward with any information that might lead to a break in the case.

Jaquayla Young and Jarvis Alexander, both 19, were fatally shot and 14 others were wounded around midnight on Sept. 19 when three or four suspects approached and fired more than 40 shots, according to police. Young and Alexander were pronounced dead at the scene.

The victims, all between the ages of 17 and 23, were attending a late-night party when the shooting occurred. Witnesses said the small gathering got out of hand when people from two nearby parties showed up, and an argument ensued.

Officers said they saw at least 100 people running to and from the area when they arrived.

Investigators said they had several people interest tied to the case, but that they weren't close to making any arrests as of Thursday.

"We need further information. We need more people to come forward. There's over 200 people there. There should be a line outside of our door," Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino told reporters at a press conference alongside families of the victims.

James Alexander, the father of one of the slain teens, was among the family members who spoke at the press conference, describing his son, Jarvis, as a caring teen who loved track and family.

"I'd just like you to put yourself in our shoes," he told reporters Thursday. "Somebody knows something. And if you have that information, I feel you're obligated to come forward simply because those lives that were taken were innocent."

He made a tearful plea for witnesses to come forward with any details.

"And I truly believe, what was done in the dark will come to the light -- somebody knows something," Alexander said. "As parents, we all have a common goal, to live decent lives, to give them the love and tools and support that they need to become the success they want to become in their lives, and that opportunity was taken from Jarvis and Jaquayla."

The Rochester Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are offering up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New Canaan Police DepartmentBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The family of missing Connecticut mom Jennifer Dulos wants her declared legally dead so they can have "closure," according to a family attorney.

The mother of five vanished in May 2019 amid a custody dispute with her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos. After months of suspicion, Fotis Dulos was arrested for his wife's murder in January 2020. A few weeks after his arrest, Fotis Dulos died in an apparent suicide.

The Dulos' five children remain under the guardianship of Jennifer Dulos' mother, Gloria Farber.

Farber and the children "really want closure," Farber's attorney, Richard Weinstein, told ABC News on Friday. "The kids read every article, Gloria reads every article. And it just opens up these wounds."

"We don't want to be dealing with this two and three years from now," he said. "We want the [Fotis] Dulos estate resolved and eventually we can open up her [Jennifer Dulos'] estate and get her estate resolved."

"I don't know of anybody who actually believes that Jennifer is alive," Weinstein added.

The criminal case remains ongoing as Fotis Dulos' girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, and his friend, attorney Kent Mawhinney, were arrested in connection to Jennifer Dulos' disappearance.

Troconis has pleaded not guilty to charges of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit murder. Mawhinney has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Meanwhile, the five Dulos children "are doing great," Weinstein said. "They really are doing wonderful, and thank God for Jennifer's friends, because they've just been tremendous."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- A very serious fire threat will unfold across parts of the Western U.S. Friday, through the weekend and into early next week.

In Colorado, the East Troublesome fire has continued to greatly expand in size. The fire is now the second-largest in state history, with at least 170,000 acres burned, and is only 5% contained. The fire exploded over 100,000 acres early Thursday and then grew another 50,000 acres during the day and early evening.

The fire becomes the second-largest fire in Colorado history, just a week after the Cameron Peak Fire broke that record. That means the two largest fires in Colorado history happened within around a week of one another.

The East Troublesome fire is just one of many fires in Colorado currently burning. Two other notable fires include the Cameron Peak fire and the Calwood Fire. The Cameron Peak fire is at least 206,000 acres and 57% contained. The Calwood Fire is over 10,000 acres and 55% contained.

At least 77% of Colorado is in extreme to exceptional drought right now.

The fire threat in Colorado, unfortunately, has not ended and there is a new fire threat on the way to parts of California and Oregon.

While winds will be weaker Friday morning, another round of strong wind gusts, locally over 60 mph, will be possible late Friday into Saturday. While relative humidity will be a little bit better than previous days, it will still be very windy and relatively dry. This could result in rapid fire spread.

Unfortunately, there is even more bad news. There is a fire threat Friday for parts of northern California with gusty winds and low relative humidity is expected. However, on Sunday and Monday, the strongest wind event so far this year appears to be on the way to parts of northern California.

Wind gusts over 70 mph will be possible in the higher elevations, and very low relative humidity is expected. This has all the ingredients for possibly extremely critical fire conditions in parts of the region.

A significant fire threat appears to be on the way later this weekend in California and parts of Oregon.

As fires torch part of the West, some of the coldest weather of the year and snow is expected in parts of the central U.S.

Part of the reason this fire threat is occurring is because of a big push of cold air and some snow that is coming into the northern Rockies and Plains. Wind weather alerts stretch from Washington to Nebraska Friday morning for the new storm.

Through the weekend, over a foot of snow in the highest elevations of the Rockies, including into parts of Montana is expected. Three to 6 inches of snow, locally higher, is also expected late in the weekend in parts of the Plains.

Some of this snow will make it into the hard-hit Colorado, which should both help firefighting efforts, and help current drought conditions.

Additionally, once this cold air makes it into the central U.S. and Midwest, parts of the region will see the coldest air so far this season, with wind chills in the single digits for the northern Plains, and teens and 20s across the Plains and into parts of the Midwest.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Daisy-Daisy/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The families of some of the 73 residents residents who have died from COVID-19 while living at a Pennsylvania nursing home have filed a lawsuit against the facility, accusing it of recklessly handling the virus outbreak.

The families of 10 deceased residents teamed up with the families of five current residents at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in a lawsuit against the nursing home, saying staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.

"They show clear evidence of poor infection control, poor training, poor supervision, transparency problems, cross-contamination, lack of supplies -- it goes on and on," Bob Daley, one of the attorneys representing the families, said Thursday. "What happened at Brighton was nothing short of a tragedy. ... Brighton as an entity systematically failed its residents."

The lawsuit names Brighton Rehab's owners and its medical director and accuses leaders of "managerial and operational negligence, carelessness, recklessness and willful and wanton conduct," according to the complaint. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

The 284-page complaint details a long list of allegations of inadequate staffing, ineffective management and substandard care that goes against local and federal health care guidelines.

Brighton allegedly failed to separate infected residents from the general population, allowed infected workers to continue working and shared misinformation about the outbreak to family members and health officials, according to the suit.

Lawyers for the residents also claimed Brighton was severely understaffed during the pandemic, which forced workers to "cut corners while struggling to care for hundreds of residents during the pandemic," according to the suit.

In response to the lawsuit, a Brighton spokesperson denied the claims and said the facility followed the guidance of local governmental health officials throughout the pandemic.

"Right now, the facility's sole focus remains on ensuring the health and well-being of all residents and staff," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The facility has been cited for infractions multiple times by the Pennsylvania Department of Health since the coronavirus outbreak, including for improper hand-washing, lack of personal protective equipment, improper distancing of residents and the improper use of hydroxychloroquine. Followup reports show these violations have been corrected.

A federal investigation of the facility initiated by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in May resulted in fines of $62,580 for "deficiencies with basic infection-prevention protocols."

The lawsuit comes as state officials grapple with the rising infection rates and fatalities. The Pennsylvania Department of Heath reported over 2,063 new cases Thursday, marking one of the state's highest single-day case counts since the start of the pandemic. The statewide total since the start of the pandemic stands at 188,360.

Pennsylvania also reported 30 additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the statewide death toll to 8,592.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Toa55/iStockBy HALEY YAMADA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Colorado residents are facing emergency evacuations after explosive growth from a new wildfire, the latest of the state‘s growing infernos.

The entire town of Grand Lake was forced to evacuate Wednesday night after the East Troublesome Fire grew six times in size to encompass over 125,000 acres west of Denver.

“It’s pretty scary. Everybody I know, all of my friends, we got out,” said Grand Lake evacuee CarrieAnn Fain.

The fire burned close to 6,000 acres within an hour, destroying an unknown number of structures. Grand County sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door to help evacuate the town quickly.

“We got flame lengths jumping off the top of the ridges,” firefighter John Demaris told KMGH-TV.

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said during a press conference Thursday that it was the fire’s explosive growth that led to a “worst of the worst” case scenario.

“We planned for the worst. This was the worst of the worst of the worst,” Schroetlin said on Thursday.

Late Wednesday night, Schroetlin also addressed the community in a video message posted on the Grand County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

“Today has been an extremely, extremely challenging day for our community,” said Schroetlin, who praised first responders. “They made some incredible rescues, some incredible evacuations, and they worked here for you.”

“Our community is Grand,” he added. “We are, without a doubt, and we’ll get through this together.”

Fueled by dry, windy conditions, the fire crossed through Rocky Mountain National Park Thursday afternoon, forcing it to close. Under an eerie dark orange sky, Estes Park became the latest town to evacuate Thursday due to the approaching inferno.

"Evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible," an emergency message from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office read. "Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business."

The East Troublesome Fire is now the fourth largest fire in Colorado State history. Colorado’s largest fire ever, the Cameron Peak Fire, is burning simultaneously less than 12 miles away.

Overall, seven fires are currently scorching across the Centennial State and strong gusty winds are expected in the latter half of the week, making the danger of a spreading fire critical.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(TULSA, Okla.) -- A team of experts searching for victims of Oklahoma's 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre uncovered what it says is a mass grave on Wednesday, nearly a hundred years after white mobs burned down a section of town known as Black Wall Street.

The group of archaeologists, anthropologists and historians discovered 12 unmarked coffins containing human remains buried at Tulsa's Oaklawn Cemetery. The discovery comes one day after the group discovered remains in another unmarked coffin nearby.

"This is just an incredible, incredible moment," Oklahoma State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said Thursday. "We still have many questions to answer but we are definitely a step closer to getting answers."

The mass grave is located near the headstones of the only two known massacre victims buried in the Black section of the Potters Field at Oaklawn.

This week's discovery was made in an area known as the "Original 18" site. Funeral home records show that at least 18 massacre victims were buried in the area.

The site is one of several around Tulsa that the group plans to search as part of a city-backed effort to investigate stories of mass graves connected to the massacre.

"While we know that there are at least 18 identified and unidentified-but-known African American massacre victims buried in Oaklawn, we're looking for any and all riot massacre victims," said historian Scott Ellsworth.

Work is now underway to determine if the remains found in the mass grave are connected to the massacre. Experts say the remains are fragile, and described the preservation level as "less than ideal." They say they do not plan to remove the remains from the coffins until they can be fully excavated and analyzed.

The next step is to submit the permits required to exhume the remains.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield says requesting permission to remove remains for an investigation with no living victims or suspects is a first for everyone on the research team.

"How to pursue an exhumation when the homicides, the assailants themselves, have long died and there's no one to charge, is a novel circumstance," Stubblefield said.

One hundred years ago, Greenwood was an affluent area of Tulsa known as Black Wall Street and was home to 1,200 black residents and hundreds of black-owned businesses. What began as a confrontation between groups of white and Black residents following the arrest of a young Black man named Dick Rowland ended with 35 city blocks being burned to the ground.

Historians believe that as many as 300 people were killed as white mobs destroyed homes, businesses, churches, schools, hospitals and other buildings from May 31 to June 1, 1921. Nearly 100 years later, many of the massacre victims' bodies have never been found.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced the effort to locate the mass graves in 2018.

"We still have a lot of work to do to identify the nature of that mass grave and to identify who is in it," Bynum said Wednesday. "What we do know as of today is that there is a mass grave in Oaklawn Cemetery where we have no record of anyone being buried."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


domnicky/iStockBy RAHMA AHMED, ABC News

(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Two years to the day after the brutal murder of University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey, her parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, and the university announced a $10.5 million settlement in a lawsuit against the school. In addition, the school will donate $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

"The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren's case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren's situation," University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins said during a press conference held Thursday. "As a result, we have failed Lauren and her family. If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren."

Lauren McCluskey was found dead in a parked car near a residential hall on campus in October 2018. Melvin Rowland, McCluskey's former boyfriend, allegedly shot and killed her before killing himself the same night.

McCluskey, 21, had reported to the university police that Rowland, 37, was harassing and stalking her. McCluskey ended their brief relationship after learning he was a registered sex offender who lied about his identity and criminal history, including a 2004 conviction of enticing a minor, police said.

The settlement comes after the McCluskeys filed a second lawsuit in June saying the university violated the state constitution. The complaint states in the weeks leading up to Lauren's murder, she was being "sexually and physically abused, stalked and threatened by her killer" and that the police "dismissed and avoided her requests for help."

Lauren and her friends reported incidents of abusive behavior to university officials in addition to their fears of violence, according to the complaint. The complaint also states the university officials dismissed her requests for help.

In an interview with ABC News in January 2019, her parents said the university did not take Lauren's complaints seriously.

"They seemed to show no curiosity about this person who had lied about his age, his name, his ... he was a sex offender," Matt McCluskey told ABC News. "And then they found out that he's also a felon."

"They should've investigated," her father added. "They would've very quickly found his parole status in one call and it would ... we wouldn't be sitting here today."

Lauren McCluskey went to university police on Oct. 12, 2018, and then Salt Lake City police on Oct. 19, according to her parents. Three days later, while on the phone with her mother, Lauren was abducted by Rowland and shot to death in her own car, according to police.

According to court documents, terms of the settlement include a payment to the McCluskey family of $10.5 million by early 2021, a $3 million donation to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation no later than March 31, 2021, an indoor track for the track and field team and the University of Utah's Center for Violence Prevention will be renamed the McCluskey Center for Violence and Prevention.

The payment to the family will be made through the university's risk management agency and insurance provider.

In the two years since McCluskey's passing, the university has introduced plans to implement changes to campus safety, including a $13 million building to house the school's police department.

The McCluskey family originally sued the University of Utah, some of its employees and the state of Utah in June 2019 for $56 million in federal court. The family later filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit in state court.

Lauren's mother stated all the money from the settlement will go to support the Lauren McCluskey Foundation to help improve campus safety.

"The settlement is important for many reasons; it addresses how Lauren died but it also honors how she lived," Jill McCluskey said during the press conference.

Jill McCluskey, who is a professor at Washington State University, also introduced the Lauren's Promise initiative, where professors can pledge in their syllabus that they will help any student that feels threatened find the resources that they need.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


narvikk/iStockBy ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(MILWAUKEE) -- Wisconsin admitted its first patient to a field hospital in the Wisconsin State Fair Park, near Milwaukee, on Wednesday, the same day that the state reported a record 48 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

The field hospital, a 530-bed facility which opened last week, is meant to relieve pressure on local hospitals, which have been rapidly filling with COVID-19 patients as Wisconsin's outbreak worsens. In some areas, 90% of ICU beds are full, according to the governor's office.

"We are thankful to have this facility available to Wisconsinites and our hospitals, but also saddened that this is where Wisconsin is at today," Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement.

"Folks, please stay home. Help us protect our communities from this highly-contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals."

In Wisconsin, COVID-19-testing positivity rates, daily new cases and deaths are all climbing, according to ABC News' analysis of the COVID Tracking Project's data.

Wisconsin reported 3,413 new infections Thursday, according to the state health department, compared with 4,205 new infections Wednesday and a record 4,951 new cases on Tuesday.

In addition to rising case counts, an average of 27.6% of tests returned positive every day in the past week in Wisconsin as of Wednesday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, which is more than five times the rate that health experts recommend.

A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.

More than 1,700 people in Wisconsin have died of the virus so far, according to the health department.

During a Thursday press briefing, Evers doubled down on his message about the severity of Wisconsin's outbreak.

"To those who say this pandemic has been blown out of proportion, or that there isn't a real risk, folks, that's just flat out wrong," Evers said. The governor pointed to families who have had loved ones died of COVID-19 and to the health care workers putting their personal health and safety on the line, while working emotionally exhausting hours to care for COVID-19 patients.

"Make no mistake," he said. "This is an urgent crisis."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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