Jul 21, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 500 words, a 2-minute read.

  • 🦃 Walmart will keep its stores closed this Thanksgiving, the first time they'll be closed on the holiday since the 1980s. (USA Today)
1 big thing: Parents fight lost rites of passage

Seniors Madisyn Swanson, from left, Lily Marchant, Hannah Dorr and Morgan Brown posed for a photo in their prom dresses back in April. Their prom was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Some parents are refusing to let a pandemic cancel their kids' senior proms.

  • Nearly 100 recent New Hampshire high school grads got dressed up last weekend for a private prom, AP reports, one of several held around the country.

The big picture: Everything from graduations to proms to weddings has taken a back seat to this virus, which has thrived in group gatherings.

Between the lines: These proms are possible because of states reopening, even as the virus rages across much of the U.S.

  • New Hampshire is among the few states where the outbreak is flat.
  • The state's rules for wedding and event venues don’t prohibit dancing but strongly discourage it unless dancers stick with members of their own household or remain 6 feet apart, AP notes.
  • “We’re asking folks to be smart about it, but I’m not going to be the guy in ‘Footloose’ who says, ‘No dancing in my town,’” Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said last month.

In other states, organizers haven't been so lucky.

  • Idaho, Montana and Georgia are among the states where make-up proms have been scuttled due to the outbreak.

The bottom line: A not-small part of this is more about the parents than the kids, as former kids can probably recall.

  • “Everyone I’ve talked to is saying, ‘Thank you for doing this for the kids,’” said Andrea Gately, who helped organize the event.
2. Pic du jour

Photo: Noah Berger/AP

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters hold their phones aloft in Portland, Oregon.

  • Demonstrations are finding renewed focus over clashes with camouflaged, unidentified federal agents outside Portland’s U.S. courthouse.
3. Catch up quick
  1. A federal grand jury charged two Chinese hackers for a "sweeping global computer intrusion campaign" that began over 10 years ago and recently targeted companies developing coronavirus vaccines and treatments. Go deeper.
  2. The CDC says the true number of people infected with COVID-19 in 10 regions could be 6–24x higher than the reported rates. Go deeper.
  3. President Trump is seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from influencing congressional apportionment determined by the 2020 Census. Go deeper.
  4. Internal drama: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called on House Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to "step down or be removed" after a heated conference meeting. Go deeper.
  5. Travelers from 31 states are now required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Go deeper.
4. 1 helpful thing

Comet NEOWISE seen from the ground. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Comet NEOWISE can now be seen with the naked eye by observers on the ground, but NASA scientists and others are training powerful telescopes in space and on Earth on the comet, Axios' Miriam Kramer reports.

  • "We now have a really spectacular look at it. We can really study it up close with many, many different instruments and cameras," Amy Mainzer, the NEOWISE project's principal investigator, said during a press briefing.
  • Scientists are planning to gather data about the light signature emitted by the comet in order to learn more about its chemical makeup.

Between the lines: Many comets break up when they make their close approaches to the Sun, so studying Comet NEOWISE's survival could help shed some light on why the structures of some comets were built to last.