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Officials in Illinois have ordered an independent investigation into a coronavirus outbreak that killed 27 people at a state-operated veterans' home. The state's Department of Veterans' Affairs announced the decision in a statement Tuesday, pledging to "immediately address any findings from that investigation."

More votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election than in any other U.S. election in history, and the turnout rate was the highest in more than a century.

President-elect Joe Biden has now earned 80 million votes, and ballots are still being counted. That is by far the most votes cast for any presidential candidate in U.S. history. President Trump holds the distinction, however, of earning the second-most votes all time. About 74 million Americans voted for him.

Signs of a tattered, but resilient, voting system were on full display this week as one of the most contentious elections in U.S. history rolled toward completion.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Good morning. I'm David Greene. 2020 just got weirder.

(SOUNDBITE OF GYORGY LIGETI'S "REQUIEM FOR SOPRANO, MEZZO-SOPRANO, 2 MIXED CHOIRS AND ORCHESTRA")

The last time Naji Aldabaan remembers feeling like a kid — mainly concerned with whether his mom would make him do homework or let him outside to play soccer — he was 10 years old.

The year was 2011, and Syria was collapsing into civil war as nationwide protests against the government were followed by crackdowns and arrests. One day, soldiers knocked on his door. They had taken away Naji's uncles. Now they'd come for his father. No one knew why. Such was the random nature of the terror.

After record-breaking wildfires this year, thousands of people across the West are still clearing piles of charred debris where their homes once stood in the hope of rebuilding their lives.

With climate change fueling bigger, more destructive wildfires, rebuilding offers an opportunity to create more fire-resistant communities by using building materials that can help homes survive the next blaze.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President-elect Joe Biden's new national security team is getting to work. Here's how Biden put it yesterday.

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Just a few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Holly Smith had already made up her mind. She was not going to reopen her restaurant to diners until there was a vaccine. She just didn't think it was safe. When she shared the decision with her staff, they asked: Would the vaccine be mandatory?

Yes, she said. It would be.

Multiple coronavirus vaccines appear to be on the horizon, but the U.S. economy is on shaky footing, and before those vaccines are expected to become widely available, millions of Americans could first fall off an economic cliff.

Jennifer Morrell understands more than most that when voters experience new ways to vote, it's not easy to take them away.

When Morrell was overseeing elections in Utah's Weber County, it offered what was going to be a onetime, all-mail election to decide a library bond issue.

"People were surprised at turnout, I do remember that," said Morrell, now an elections consultant.

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