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

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Sep 16, 2020 - Health

CDC director suggests face masks offer more COVID-19 protection than vaccine would

CDC director Robert Redfield suggested in a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday that face masks are "more guaranteed" to protect against the coronavirus than a vaccine, citing the potential for some people to not become immune to the virus after receiving the shot.

What he's saying: "These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I've said if we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control," he said.

Trump blames "blue states" for high coronavirus cases in U.S.

President Trump said in a press conference Wednesday that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is "very low ... if you take the blue states out," while defending the nation's response to the pandemic compared to other countries around the world.

Why it matters: Of the top five states with the largest death tolls from the virus, three have Democratic governors, suggesting there is little relation between the spread of the virus and the political parties of state leaders.

Coronavirus cases increase in 17 states

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

Coronavirus infections ticked up slightly over the past week, thanks to scattered outbreaks in every region of the country.

Where it stands: The U.S. has been making halting, uneven progress against the virus since August. Overall, we're moving in the right direction, but we're often taking two steps forward and one step back.