Mask mandates? Droppin' like it's hot – USA TODAY

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More cold winter weather is coming. Family Dollar is dealing with a big rodent problem. And we’ve got the latest on what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine.
👋 Laura here. It’s Monday’s biggest news. 
But first, how about some good news? 🐾 A dog named Zoey had been missing so long, she was declared dead. After 12 years, she was just reunited with her owner.
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Forty-nine states have announced plans to drop their indoor mask mandates as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations steadily decline. The only holdout is Hawaii. The island state has taken strong precautions against the coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic and still requires out-of-state travelers to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to avoid a mandatory quarantine. More than 75% of Hawaii residents have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine – 10% higher than the national rate – according to the Hawaii Department of Health, and coronavirus cases have dropped by a whopping 64% from Feb. 5 to 18. Hawaii’s rapid drop in cases mirrors nationwide statistics. Reported U.S. cases on Saturday barely exceeded 100,000, a sharp downturn from about 800,850 five weeks ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
President Joe Biden on Monday will sign an executive order to sanction any Americans who invest in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. The move comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the two breakaway areas as independent, further inflaming tensions with the West amid fears of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin also ordered Russian forces to “maintain peace” in eastern Ukraine, though it was not immediately clear if troops would enter Ukrainian territory. Putin announced the decrees in an address to Russia, in which he rejected the idea of Ukrainian nationhood. He called it “madness” that the country had independence and incorrectly claimed that the country was only the product of power-brokering during the beginning of the Soviet Union. 👉 The latest on the crisis. 
Winter said, “It ain’t over till it’s over!” After much of the nation enjoyed a mild weekend, frigid weather is on the way for a large chunk of the country this week, forecasters said, warning of “dangerously cold wind chills” over portions of the central USA. Over the next few days, temperatures will be 20 to 30 degrees below average across the nation’s northern tier, the National Weather Service said. Several locations could see record-breaking cold. Across Nebraska, wind chills Tuesday will dip as low as 40 degrees below zero, which can cause frostbite to exposed skin “in as little as 10 minutes,” the weather service said. Heavy snow is expected from the Dakotas into the Upper Great Lakes, and the southern USA faces threats of possible flooding and tornadoes from the severe weather. 🌨 Full forecast and updates here.
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The three white men who chased, cornered and killed Ahmaud Arbery two years ago in Georgia knew only this about him: He was Black, and he was running, federal prosecutors said Monday during closing arguments in their federal hate crimes trial. Defense attorneys countered that Arbery was fatally shot in self-defense and had acted suspiciously during prior trips to the neighborhood. The jury was sent into deliberations. The defendants were convicted of murder last fall in a state trial and sentenced to life in prison, but state prosecutors did not present evidence the murder was racially motivated – evidence that is central to the federal prosecutors’ case. All three men pleaded not guilty.
Oh, rats! Family Dollar temporarily closed more than 400 of its stores in six states after a rodent infestation tied to a recall. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday that more than 1,000 rodents were found inside a Family Dollar distribution facility in Arkansas that served stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Family Dollar announced a voluntary recall affecting items including over-the-counter medications, medical devices, cosmetics, dietary supplements, human food and pet food purchased from the 404 affected stores from Jan. 1, 2021, through this year. When stores will open was not known as of Monday. Is your store on the list?
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