Friday morning news – July 17, 2020

Two more states issue mask mandates » Two more states will begin requiring face masks in public. In Arkansas, GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson announced a statewide mask mandate on Thursday. 

And in Colorado, Democratic Governor Jared Polis said his state must curb the coronavirus surge quickly.

POLIS: There is a small window of opportunity, because if we don’t act, at the current rate that we saw, if you extrapolate that out, the state would exceed its ICU capacity in September. 

As of today, everyone in Colorado over the age of 9 will be required to wear a mask in public.  

In Ohio, GOP Governor Mike DeWine said his state is expanding its mask mandate to 19 counties—covering about 60 percent of the population. 

But in Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp has issued an executive order Thursday, keeping current health policies in place for another two weeks. That means no mask mandate. The order vetoes local ordinances requiring masks, including one in Atlanta. 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that President Trump has not changed his stance on a national mandate. 

MCENANY: We leave it to localities to make the decisions with regard to face coverings. And the CDC guidelines remain the same today, recommended but not required. 

More than half of all states now require face coverings in public. 

But residents of states that don’t require masks will soon have to wear one if they want to shop in certain stores. 

Several large chains say they’ll soon require all customers to wear masks in their stores. The list includes Walmart, Kohl’s, and the nation’s largest grocery chain, Kroger. 

RNC limits convention attendance » As the coronavirus continues to surge across the Sun Belt, President Trump’s plans for this year’s GOP convention keep shrinking. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Republican National Committee announced Thursday it is sharply restricting attendance on three of the four nights of its convention. It’s slated to start August 24th in Jacksonville, Florida. 

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said only the roughly 2,500 regular delegates to the convention would be permitted to attend the opening three nights. Delegates, their guests, and alternate delegates would be permitted to attend the final night, Aug. 27th, when Trump is set to deliver his acceptance speech.

GOP officials familiar with the planning have reportedly said Trump’s speech is expected to take place outdoors to accommodate the largest crowd possible.

The GOP moved most of the convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville after local officials ruled out a full-capacity crowd during the pandemic.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Jobless claims top 1 million for 17th week » More than a million Americans filed jobless claims again last week.

The number of laid-off workers seeking assistance remained stuck at 1.3 million—lower than the previous week, but another indication of COVID-19’s impact on the economy. 

It was the 17th consecutive week that jobless claims surpassed 1 million.

Mark Hamrick is a senior economic analyst with 

HAMRICK: A year ago, claims were at 217,000. So when we get something that’s 1.1 million new claims above a year ago, that tells you just how serious the situation with the job market is. 

The Labor Department’s Thursday weekly report showed layoffs rising in Florida, Georgia and California by tens of thousands. 

First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US poised for final testing » But there is good news in the race to find a vaccine for the coronavirus: The first one tested in the United States revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped. 

Biotech company Moderna developed the experimental vaccine along with the National Institutes of Health. 

Researchers said the early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream at levels similar to those found in people who survived COVID-19.

In less than two weeks, researchers will put the vaccine to a much larger test—a 30,000-person study. That will prove whether the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

U.S., Canada, U.K. accuse Russia of trying to steal coronavirus research » While scientists continue work to develop a safe, effective vaccine, Russia is reportedly working to steal it. WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Britain, the United States, and Canada accused Russian hackers on Thursday of trying to steal information from vaccine researchers.

Intelligence agencies in the three nations said the hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, is part of the Russian intelligence services. They found that the group is trying to hack academic and pharmaceutical research labs. And they’re warning scientists to be alert for suspicious activity.

Intel officials believe Russia is trying to steal intellectual property, rather than to disrupt research. It’s unclear whether any information actually was stolen.

The U.S. government has also accused China of trying to steal coronavirus research. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

U.S. government executes another federal inmate » The federal government carried out its second execution in three days on Thursday after a hiatus of nearly two decades. 

Wesley Ira Purkey died of lethal injection at a federal prison in Indiana. Purkey was convicted of kidnapping and killing 16-year-old Jennifer Long. 

In a final statement, Purkey said “I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused to Jennifer’s family. I am deeply sorry.”

His last words were: “This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever. Thank you.”

Jennifer’s family said delays since the 2003 trial were excruciating. Her mother Olivia Long told reporters…

LONG: It just took way too long, all these appeals, some of them he put through several times. And then we sat in a van for four hours this morning while he did a bunch more appeals, some of them he had already done. We just shouldn’t have had to wait this long. 

As with the execution of Daniel Lee Lewis on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 ruling—cleaning the way for the execution. The four liberal justices dissented.

While Purkey’s final words were lucid and contrite, his lawyers argued the execution should be halted because he had dementia.

The Supreme Court also lifted a hold placed on other executions set for today and next month.

(AP Photo/Steven Senne) Men wearing protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic exit a Walmart, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Walpole, Mass. 

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