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Trump hits election integrity with unsupported complaints

WASHINGTON — With votes still being counted across the nation, President Donald Trump on Thursday sought to undermine confidence in the nation’s election, making unsupported accusations from the White House about the integrity of the results in his race against Democrat Joe Biden.

Hours earlier, Biden offered reassurances that the counting could be trusted, projecting a more presidential appearance while urging patience from Americans.

The candidates’ sharply contrasting postures intensified a national moment of uncertainty as the nation and the world waited to learn which man would collect the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. Trump pursued legal options with little success, working the phones and escalating efforts to sow doubt about the outcome of the race.

His path to victory narrow, Trump pushed unsupported allegations of electoral misconduct in a series of tweets and insisted the ongoing vote count of ballots submitted before and on Election Day must cease. And in his first public appearance since late on Election Night, he amplified the conspiracy theories amid the trappings of presidential power.

“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” said Trump of Democrats, whom he accused of corruption while providing no evidence.

He made similar claims about election integrity during the 2016 campaign, which he went on to win. This time, he was speaking not as a candidate, but as the sitting president of the United States.

Biden took a different tack, speaking briefly to reporters after attending a COVID-19 briefing to declare that “each ballot must be counted.”

“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” said Biden. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”

Biden’s victories in Michigan and Wisconsin put him in a commanding position, but Trump showed no sign of giving up. It could take several more days for the vote count to conclude and a clear winner emerge.

With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 72 million votes, the most in history.

Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.

Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits there on Thursday.

Biden has already won Michigan and Wisconsin. The contests in Georgia and Pennsylvania, along with Nevada and North Carolina, were tight with votes still being tabulated.

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”

Trump’s legal challenges faced long odds. He would have to win multiple suits in multiple states in order to stop vote counts, since more than one state was undeclared. There were no obvious grounds for the Justice Department to try to intervene to stop a vote count at the state level, unless the federal government could somehow assert a violation of federal voting laws or the Constitution.

The department could theoretically file a brief in support of a Trump campaign lawsuit if it believed there were federal concerns at stake, but that intervention would be extraordinary.

While Trump has insisted that ballot counting stop, it was unclear exactly what that would include. Counting for votes received by Nov. 3 was continuing, but roughly 20 states allow ballots to be counted if postmarked by Nov. 3 but received in the days after. In some states that is as long as nine days, or even longer. Some of the deadline changes were made as a result of the pandemic, but others are just routine parts of state election laws. Trump has fixated on Pennsylvania, where the Supreme Court refused to stop a court’s ruling that allowed for a three-day extension.

He also said he was taking fraud claims to court – but most of the lawsuits only demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted. A judge in Georgia dismissed the campaign’s suit there less than 12 hours after it was filed. And a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump lawsuit over whether enough GOP challengers had access to handling of absentee ballots

Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the suits were legally “meritless.” Their only purpose, he said “is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”

It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed cases as several states posted all-time highs. The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.

Beyond the presidency, Democrats had hoped the election would allow the party to reclaim the Senate and pad its majority in the House. But while the voting scrambled seats in the House and Senate, it ultimately left Congress much like it began — deeply divided.


Weissert reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Alexandra Jaffe in Washington contributed to this report.


Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.

Night rides return to Bays Mountain Park next week

KINGSPORT — It’s time for you to experience Bays Mountain Park in an all new light. Or maybe with a complete lack thereof.

The park recently announced that it’s bringing back the popular night biking program beginning next week, thanks to downtown business Reedy Creek Bicycles. Now’s your chance to hit the trails on your mountain bike under dark and moonlit skies.

Beginning on Nov. 10, you’ll be able to join a group of riders for a journey through the forest. The rides will take place on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, from November through February.

Each ride will begin at 6 p.m., last one to two hours, and be led by Reedy Creek Bicycles.

There are no age or skill level restrictions for this free program.


Riders should arrive early in time for a prompt 6 p.m. departure. No late arrivals will be allowed to catch up. You should wear appropriate safety gear for mountain biking, including a helmet. Flashlights or headlamps are recommended.

If you’re new to night rides or mountain biking in general, stop by Reedy Creek Bicycles, where their knowledgeable staff will have you ready to ride in no time. All riders should also be prepared to complete and sign a waiver before hitting the trails.


Nov. 10 and 24

Dec. 8 and 22

Jan. 12 and 26

Feb. 9 and 23

All dates are subject to weather and trail conditions.

Area business, education and pastoral leaders urge residents to help slow COVID-19 spread

A group of regional business, education and pastoral leaders on Thursday released an “urgent joint statement” saying they are concerned about the surge of COVID-19 cases in the area and asking residents to ”join us in slowing the spread of this virus.”

“It is too much to ask of our nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to be there for us, without us also doing our part to help them,” they said.

The leaders who issued the statement include Eastman CEO Mark Costa, UVA Wise Chancellor Donna Henry, ETSU President Brian Noland, Bristol Motor Speedway Executive Vice President Jerry Caldwell, Eastman Credit Union President Kelly Price and Six Rivers Media President Rick Thomason.

The following is the statement in its entirety:

Help Us Support Our Healthcare Workforce as They Support our Region

“As leaders of organizations touching every part of the Appalachian Highlands, we believe it is important to speak out about issues that affect our team members, their families and our extended communities.

Right now, there is no issue more concerning to us than the growing threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

We are concerned that the surge of cases of COVID-19 cases in our region is resulting in increased hospitalizations, death and continued economic disruption. These issues are real, and they are happening all around us. Each of us has experienced team members, friends, family members or neighbors who have been directly or indirectly affected.

Despite varying outlooks and perspectives about this virus, as a community, we must do our part to protect each other.

We are grateful for the focus and response we have seen from Ballad Health and our health departments from their respective team members and community partners. For almost nine months, they have been on the front lines, working each day to protect our loved ones and serving those who are afflicted with the virus and need care.

We could not ask for more from them.

But they cannot handle this alone. It is too much to ask of our nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to be there for us, without us also doing our part to help them.

For almost nine months, the public has been told in a transparent way what would happen if this virus spread, and for a long time, our region did a good job containing it. However, in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in community spread. In addition to increased human suffering, the rapid spread of this virus threatens to overwhelm our healthcare delivery system – in fact, the signs are there that this is already happening.

Why is this important to us? Due to the spread of this virus nationally, and due to the significant increase in demand for what was already a shortage of nurses nationally and worldwide, staffing resources are not abundant; to wit, they’re more limited than usual. These limitations mean that, as COVID-19 cases increase and we confront the flu season, our nurses, doctors and allied health professionals could become overwhelmed and struggle to serve even the basic needs of our communities.

This does not have to happen. We can help reduce this risk by taking steps to protect ourselves, our families and the people we care for. We can take steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and we can take steps to reduce the risk of the flu.

Is this a guarantee that we won’t see the consequences of the spread? No. But if we do nothing, we can practically guarantee the worst case is likely to happen.

If you are out in public, we strongly encourage you to take personal responsibility and wear a mask if you’re able to do so safely. Socially distance and keep interactions to small groups. If you’re planning to host a large event, find a virtual solution or postpone it until it’s safe to do so. If that is not possible, take all appropriate steps to ensure physical distancing. Please get a flu shot now, in order to help mitigate the severity of the upcoming flu season. And keep up with the simple things like frequently washing your hands and covering coughs and sneezes. If you are experiencing symptoms, get tested. If you’re asked to quarantine, do so for the entire 14-day period to keep from spreading the virus to others.

If you balk at wearing a mask around others, please consider the fact that nurses and allied health professionals work 12-hour shifts and wear a mask the entire time, even as they must change their PPE each time they enter a patient room.

They must also act as family members, comforting very sick patients — even if they know the patient might not survive or will continue to suffer. They are the ones who have to call the family to tell them a patient has not survived. They carry the emotional burden of constantly dealing with a disease no one has experience with. They go home after their shift and carry the fear they might have been exposed and could be impacting their own families.

We all carry on our own responsibilities each day, and sometimes, we do not understand the lengths to which others go to serve our needs. In this case, our healthcare resources have done, and are doing, all we can ask of them. So, in turn, we ask everyone in our region to support them.

When it is one of our team members, or their families, or even our own who need the caring and expertise of these healthcare providers, we want those resources to be available.

Please pay attention. Please heed the guidance of Ballad Health experts and our regional healthcare leaders.

People of all ages have fallen ill from this virus, and some have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with their families during these extremely difficult times. We all know someone who is at risk or who needs our support.

Please join us in slowing the spread of this virus. We will get through this, but it will take all of us working together.”

The statement’s signers are:

Allen Jessee, lead pastor, Highlands Fellowship Church

Bill Greer, president, Milligan University

Dale Fair, CEO, Bank of Tennessee and Carter County Bank

Dr. Donna P. Henry, chancellor, University of Virginia College at Wise

Dr. Brian Noland, president, East Tennessee State University

Grant Summers, president, Summers-Taylor Inc.

Jeff Bedard, president/CEO, Crown Laboratories

Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president/general manager, Bristol Motor Speedway

Joe LaPorte III, chairman/CEO, Citizens Bank

John Stewart, president, Nuclear Fuel Services Inc.

John Tweed, president/CEO, Landair

Dr. John W. Wells, president, Emory & Henry College

Kelly Price, president/CEO Eastman Credit Union

Mark Costa, chairman/CEO, Eastman Chemical Company

Martin Kent, president/CEO, The United Company

Matt Murphy, lead pastor, Grace Fellowship Church

Neil Poland, president, Mullican Flooring

Rick Thomason, president, Six Rivers Media, LLC

Publisher, Kingsport Times News and Johnson City Press

Steven C. Smith, president/CEO, KVAT Food City

Tom Wennogle, president, ARTAZN, LLC

13 more COVID-19 deaths, 216 new cases reported in Northeast Tennessee

More than a third of all new COVID-19 deaths reported in the state on Thursday were in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee.

The region accounted for 13 new COVID-19 deaths: five in Washington County; three in Sullivan County; three in Johnson County; and one each in Carter and Greene counties. That brought the region’s pandemic death toll to 282.

The county breakdown of the region’s 282 deaths: 72 in Washington County; 61 in Sullivan County; 58 in Greene County; 38 in Carter County; 30 in Hawkins County; 13 in Johnson County; seven in Unicoi County; and three in Hancock County.

Statewide, 31 new deaths (including Northeast Tennessee’s 13) and 1,969 more cases brought Tennessee’s totals to 3,509 deaths (3,297 confirmed as COVID-19 and 212 probable) and 271,771 cases (255,720 confirmed as COVID-19 and 16,051 probable). Of the 271,771 total cases, 243,492 were listed as “inactive/recovered.”

The region’s total cases increased by 216 to 15,956 (including confirmed, probable, and inactive/recovered), with the following new infections: 63 in Washington County (4,268 total); 56 in Carter County (1,889 total); 35 in Sullivan County (4,365 total); 31 in Greene County (2,143 total); 18 in Hawkins County (1,372 total); seven in Johnson County (1,252 total); and six in Unicoi County (541 total). Zero new cases were reported in Hancock County (total 126).

The new cases numbers were based on 19,441 new test results statewide, compared to Wednesday, with a positive rate of 10.15%.

The 31 new deaths reported statewide by age group: 11 in the 81-plus group; 10 in the 71-80 group; five in the 51-60 group; three in the 61-70 group; one in the 31-40 group; and one in the 11-20 group.

COVID-19 in SWVA: Cases spike by almost 70

Far Southwest Virginia’s COVID-19 cases spiked by almost 70, according to Thursday’s state health data, as Lee County Schools added another case.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) reported that the state had 1,366 new cases and 11 deaths in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 187,202 cases and 3,688 deaths.

The LENOWISCO Health District added 69 total cases for totals of 1,933 and 27 deaths during the pandemic. Wise County saw 33 cases for totals of 767 and 10 deaths. Scott County had 21 cases for 499 and seven deaths.

Lee County saw 12 cases for 610 and 10 deaths, while Norton’s case total added three for 57 and no deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Thursday’s VDH report was 2,934,446 of 8.63 million residents, or 34%. For nasal swab testing only, 2,719,206 people have been tested to date, or 31.5%. In the LENOWISCO district, 20,397 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 23.59%.

testing rates by locality

• Lee County, 6,359 of 23,423, or 27.15%

• Norton, 1,999 of 3,981, or 50.21%

• Wise County, 7,594 of 37,383, or 20.31%

• Scott County, 4,445 of 21,566, or 20.61%

Lee County Schools Superintendent Brian Austin, in a letter to parents Thursday, said that one student or staff COVID-19 case had been reported at Elk Knob Elementary School, with the infected person last on campus Monday. Schools are remaining open as school and LENOWISCO Health District officials conduct contact tracing, Austin said.

Red Onion State Prison remained at 20 inmate cases and one active staff/contractor case, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections COVID-19 webpage (https://vadoc.virginia.gov/news-press-releases/2020/covid-19-updates/).

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at no inmate cases and decreased by one case to two active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 16 inmate cases and five active staff cases.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Thursday’s report dropped from 18.6% to 15.5%. The statewide positivity rate increased from 5.7% to 5.8%.

According to Thursday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/key-measures/pandemic-metrics/region-metrics/), cases in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — were ranked as rising after a 45-day increase in cases. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results remained increasing based on a 25-day increase in that measure.

All four school systems in the LENOWISCO district — Wise, Lee and Scott counties and Norton — were ranked as highest-risk based on the 14-day case incidence rate in the district. Lee County Schools and Norton City Schools were ranked highest-risk for percent change in seven-day case incidences. Wise County Schools were ranked moderate-risk and Scott County Schools higher-risk.

Where to be tested

Do you think you may have COVID-19? Local health departments provide free testing.

The LENOWISCO Health Department, which covers Norton and Lee, Wise and Scott counties, posts regular updates on testing sites across the district and offers free COVID-19 tests at its county offices. Those seeking a test must call in advance for an appointment. Contact numbers for the county offices are:

• Lee County (Jonesville) — (276) 346-2011

• Scott County (Gate City) — (276) 386-1312

• Wise County and Norton (Wise) — (276) 328-8000

Additional testing and COVID-19 precaution information can be found at the LENOWISCO Health District’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/Lenowisco

The Health Wagon will partner with the Virginia Department of Health to offer 17 sessions of free drive-thru testing at Food City in St. Paul through Dec. 31. Call (276) 328-8850 for an appointment.

In Southwest Virginia, online resources are available to help evaluate whether residents might be infected and where to get a COVID-19 test. The Virginia Department of Health’s COVIDCHECK (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck/) can walk a user through symptoms they may be experiencing and help direct them to their local health department office or other available testing sites.

The Kingsport Neighborhood Commission encourages you to enjoy autumn’s mild weather by going to places like Bays Mountain Park.