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News Wrap: U.S. COVID cases rise 80 percent in 2 weeks

In our news wrap Tuesday, U.S. coronavirus infections have hit another record, with 166,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. That represents an 80 percent increase in just two weeks, prompting more states to take action. Also, Georgia’s top election official says he’s being pressured by fellow Republicans, and that Sen. Lindsey Graham implied the state should discard legitimate ballots.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The wave of U.S. coronavirus infections has hit another high, 166,000 in the last 24 hours. That is up 80 percent in just two weeks, and it is prompting more states to take action.

    Ohio today imposed an overnight curfew for businesses. And Iowa mandated masks in indoor public spaces.

    Republican Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa gave the order after months of resisting the idea.

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds:

    If you can't social distance and you're going to be in a prolonged interaction with an individual for more than 15 minutes, then you're required to wear a mask.

    That's what in the proclamation. That's the expectation. So, I am asking Iowans again. It's not where we want to be, but we need everybody to step up and do the right thing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Also today, Iowa's Republican senator Chuck Grassley tested positive for the virus. He is 87 years old and President Pro Tem of the senate, putting him 3rd in line to succeed the President.

    President-elect Joe Biden filled a number of senior positions on his White House staff today. One is Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond. He will resign his seat in order to become a senior adviser to the president.

    Meanwhile, two weeks after the election, President Trump has yet to concede defeat or to start the transition.

    The elections chief in the state of Georgia says that he is being pressured by fellow Republicans. The state is recounting presidential votes after president-elect Biden won by 14,000 votes. He also faces — the state also faces two U.S. Senate run-offs.

    But Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says that South Carolina's U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham implied that he should discard legitimate ballots. Raffensperger spoke in a television interview.

  • Brad Raffensperger:

    We want to make sure that every legal vote counts and every illegal vote doesn't count. I have always been a conservative Republican, and I want to make sure we have a lawful process, because I think integrity still matters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Graham chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He denies Raffensperger's claim.

    The Pentagon confirms that it is cutting U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan nearly in half, to 2,500, by mid-January. Today's formal announcement came despite warnings by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. He said that Afghanistan could again become a base for foreign terrorists.

    We will return to this later in the program.

    Central America was battered again today by Hurricane Iota on the heels of another hurricane two weeks ago. The storm charged ashore in Nicaragua overnight with sustained winds of 155 miles an hour. The raging wind came with extreme rainfall and heavy flooding.

    Humanitarian groups warned of a long-term disaster.

  • Tomson Phiri:

    Continued flooding in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua is going to affect the incoming harvest. And this will severely strain subsistence farmers. And, already, whilst it's still early days, it is quite clear that this will extend the emergency even into mid-2021.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Early reports told of widespread damage and two deaths in Nicaragua.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Senate blocked Judy Shelton's nomination to the Federal Reserve Board. Senator and vice president-elect Kamala Harris cast the decisive vote, joining her fellow Democrats and two Republicans. They opposed the conservative economics commentator over her denunciations of the Fed, among other things.

    And on Wall Street today, investors retreated after a disappointing report on retail sales. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 167 points to close at 29783. The Nasdaq fell 24 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 17.

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