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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaking at CPAC 2017. Photo: Mike Theiler/AFP via Getty Images

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told county governments they will not receive federal coronavirus relief funds if they require people to wear masks while inside state courthouses and other local government offices, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Why it matters: Local officials in Lincoln, the state’s second-largest city, were preparing to require people to wear a mask when entering government buildings, but scrapped the drafted rules because of the CARES Act money at stake.

What they're saying: “The governor encourages people to wear a mask, but does not believe that failure to wear a mask should be the basis for denying taxpayers’ services," Ricketts' spokesman Taylor Gage said, according to the World-Herald.

  • “We’d like to have a little bit more ability to call the shots in our courthouse, but we realize that he has the right to set the rules,” Lancaster County Board member Deb Schorr said.
  • In Dakota County, which is home to a Tyson meatpacking plant and has been hit hard by the virus, county assessor Jeff Curry said the message from the governor is “you better do what I want you to do.”
  • “It sure would have been nice to be able to sit down with our health director and County Board and have a conversation about what to do, without being mandated to do it,” Curry said.

The big picture: The reopening of the economy after weeks of lockdowns has pitted states against local governments. Some city and county officials argue that a more localized approach to coronavirus is necessary because the level of outbreaks can vary throughout the state.

  • In Texas, mayors of nine of the state's biggest cities asked Gov. Greg Abbott in a letter Tuesday to grant them the authority to mandate wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Tribune reports.
  • Abbott announced that he was allowing the state's stay-at-home order to expire in April and issued an executive order that prevents local governments from penalizing people who don't wear masks in public.
  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem prevented municipal governments inside the state from issuing stay-at-home warnings, even as a meat-packing plant in Sioux Falls became the largest single hotspot of new cases in the country in April.

Go deeper: Oklahoma among the states with highest coronavirus case growth

Go deeper

Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.