October 20 coronavirus news

By Emma Reynolds, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020
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6:05 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Moderna and Pfizer will meet with FDA vaccine committee meeting this week

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and Wes Bruer

Moderna and Pfizer, the two frontrunners in the US race for a Covid-19 vaccine, will be making presentations to an all-day meeting Thursday of a US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee, but both companies said they will not be presenting data from their Phase 3 clinical trials. 

"This is not a moment where we will be sharing data. This is a discussion from the FDA to discuss the requirements for efficacy, safety and manufacturing,” a spokesperson for Pfizer said in an email to CNN. 

Both companies have said they could possibly apply to the FDA for authorization to market their vaccines in the coming weeks if their Phase 3 clinical trial data turns out to be positive. 

Pfizer has said it could apply for emergency use authorization after the third week in November. Moderna has said the federal government could give an EUA to the company’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine in December if the company gets positive interim results in November.

Once the companies apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will advise the agency on whether it thinks authorization should be given. 

The Thursday meeting is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, said members have been asked to keep their schedules clear until 7 p.m. because it might run long. 

Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said “general parameters” will be discussed for how to measure vaccine safety and efficacy. 

5:17 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Covid-19 hospitalizations in Tennessee are up over 50% since October 1, health official says

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Tennessee has seen a slight increase in its Covid-19 case rate and positivity rate, as well as a dramatic rise in hospitalizations, with numbers up over 50% since Oct. 1, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey announced Tuesday. 

Dr. Piercey said the increase in hospitalizations is primarily because most of Tennessee’s cases are now coming from rural areas.

“As a general principle, our rural populations have more concentrations of older and sicker individuals, who are more likely to need hospitalization if they become ill,” the Health Commissioner said.

To help mitigate the rise in hospitalizations, the state is working with hospital partners on different targeted approaches, including additional funding for hospital staffing, and amping up Covid-19 specific nursing homes to reduce the load of nursing home patients on hospitals, Gov. Bill Lee said.  

Dr. Piercey added that Tennessee’s alternative care sites continue to exercise and prepare in the catastrophic event the state would need to open one of the sites.

5:02 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

No indoor dining and bar service in four Illinois regions starting Friday, governor says

From CNN's Raja Razek 

 Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Illinois Governor's office

In a news conference on Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that four regions would be operating under the standard resurgence mitigations by the end of this week, including no indoor dining or indoor bar service and limiting in-person gatherings to no more than 25 people. 

"Today marks the third day in a row for regions 7 and 8 to report a rolling positivity average of 8% or above. That means that starting on Friday, four counties: Will, Kankakee, DuPage, and Kane will all see the heightened resurgence mitigations already in place in region 1," he said. 

"New restrictions were announced yesterday for region 5, Southern Illinois, so that means four of our 11 regions have triggered our fail-safe state action metric," Pritzker added. 

The governor also discussed how the new wave of the virus is disrupting small businesses in these regions, saying, "They will receive priority consideration for the 220 million dollars in the current round of business interruption grants."

According to Pritzker, of the seven regions that are still operating under phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, five are now at a rolling positivity average above 7%, with the other two regions above 6.5%.

"All continue to show increases over last week, and most regions of the state continue to see increases in COVID related hospital admissions," Pritzker said. 

"As colder weather approaches and flu season is upon us, we're going to see the rippling effects of these current unfortunate trends."

4:44 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Colorado breaks record for Covid-19 average case count

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The state of Colorado is seeing its highest seven-day average count of Covid-19 cases.

“We are at our highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said at a news conference Tuesday. “We have had three waves of illness. A spring wave, a July wave and now a fall wave.”

The one-week rolling average was listed at 960 as of Tuesday. The record for a single-day case count was set Oct. 15 at 1,155. Health officials say some of the increase compared to the early days of the pandemic is likely to be due to higher testing capacity, but it is still a dangerous trend. “We cannot go on as we have been,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “The status quo is not acceptable.”

The biggest concern is the possibility of stressing the state’s hospital capacity.

“We are still seeing an increase in hospitalizations,” Polis said, amounting to about one out of every four hospital beds being filled with a coronavirus patient. 

“We are projected to exceed the level of hospitalizations we saw in the spring in about mid-November,” Herlihy said. She added that, with more people likely to be indoors and gathered together during the holidays, they could exceed their intensive care capacity by late December.

4:42 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Former FDA commissioner predicts US is a week away from "rapid acceleration" in Covid-19 cases

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

In this April 5, 2017 file photo, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing at on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
In this April 5, 2017 file photo, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing at on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

In about a week, the United States may see a "rapid acceleration" in Covid-19 cases, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, predicted on Monday.

"It's going to be a difficult fall and winter. I think we're about two or three weeks behind Europe – so we're about a week away from starting to enter a period where we're going to see a rapid acceleration in cases," Gottlieb told CNBC's Shepard Smith.

"We're seeing hospitalizations go up in 42 states right now, cases are going up in 45 states, and there really is no backstop," Gottlieb said. "The summer was a backstop of sorts to the spring surge and we have no therapeutic backstop and this season, the fall and winter season, is when this coronavirus is going to want to spread."

4:40 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Wisconsin reports more than 4,500 new cases on Tuesday

From CNN's Kay Jones

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard test residents for the coronavirus at a temporary test facility in Milwaukee on October 9.
Members of the Wisconsin National Guard test residents for the coronavirus at a temporary test facility in Milwaukee on October 9. Scott Olson/Getty Images

There are 4,591 new cases of Covid-19 in Wisconsin today, according to state health officials. 

Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the numbers include backlogged cases that accumulated when the state's electronic disease surveillance system went through an upgrade and enhancement over the weekend.

She said that the numbers may be higher over the next few days as they work through importing the data. 

Wisconsin has 178,482 total positive cases since the pandemic began. Palm said that 43% of the state's total cases have come within the past month and 62% over the past two months. 

"Covid-19 is spreading in every community across our state," Palm said. "In recent weeks we've asked you to stay home and to wear a mask if you go out because it was safe to assume that the virus is everywhere in Wisconsin." 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said during the press conference that the ruling made by a circuit court judge on Monday denying a temporary injunction on the state's emergency order limiting public gatherings to 25% capacity was critically important in helping prevent the spread of the virus. 

He said that he wants to see small businesses, including restaurants and bars, succeed but that it won't happen until everyone starts taking this pandemic seriously. 

4:24 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Canada’s Covid-19 cases surpass 200,000 as trick-or-treating becomes a virus casualty in some cities 

From CNN’s Paula Newton

CTV Network
CTV Network

Canada continues to battle a second wave of Covid-19 as total cases top 200,000 and deaths near the grim milestone of 10,000 victims since the pandemic began.  

Alarmingly, public health officials say hospitalizations continue to rise as the positivity rate nationally during the last week is now above 3%, and higher than that in hotspots like Montreal and Toronto. 

“Here, and around the world the fight against this virus is far from over. In order to win it we have to keep working together,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference Tuesday.

While schools remain open for in-person learning throughout most of the country, there have been targeted restrictions in many urban centers with restaurant and bar closures, limits on social gatherings and closure of gyms and theaters. 

While new, daily cases have plateaued and the growth rate of new cases has stabilized, Canadian hospitals are seeing more patients who are critically ill. 

“The number of people experiencing severe illness is also increasing. Over the past 7 days there were on average over 950 individuals with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals including close to 200 in critical care and an average of 22 deaths reported each day,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada during a press conference in Ottawa. 

Trudeau was asked about Halloween Tuesday as several cities in Ontario, including Toronto and Ottawa, recommended against trick or treating on Halloween night saying community transmission of the virus was too high. 

"We know that it's not easy, and it's frustrating," Trudeau said adding, "Unfortunately, all of us are having to make sacrifices of different types, particularly kids."

Trudeau confirmed his three children will be following local public health guidelines and would not be trick or treating in Ottawa on Halloween night. 

The issue of Halloween divides even doctors with some saying trick or treating is a relatively low risk activity given it is outside.  

A Toronto infectious disease specialist tweeted that the ban on trick or treating didn’t "sit right." 

“The goal should be to find ways to do things safely rather than cancel. Halloween shouldn’t be too tough to do safely: Outside, wearing masks, restricted to family units, distant from others - is about as low risk as it gets,” tweeted Dr. Isaac Bogoch with the University of Toronto. 

Some editorials were scathing with The Globe and Mail’s medical specialist Andre Picard writing, “We’ve spent months being spooked by a virus. It’s time for a little pushback,” he says in an opinion piece, adding, “This is masked, distanced candy-collecting. To suggest that is dangerous is downright diabolical.”

There is little indication local authorities will relent before Halloween although officials said that they were relying on individual compliance and they were not planning any enforcement initiatives. 

4:00 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Arkansas governor tests negative after possible Covid-19 exposure

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Governor Asa Hutchinson listens during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York on May 28, 2019.
Governor Asa Hutchinson listens during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York on May 28, 2019. Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has tested negative for Covid-19 after being in a meeting Friday with an individual who later tested positive, the governor said.

After contact tracing took place, the governor was notified early Monday morning, that there were questions about his exposure, “even though I had remained over six feet away from the individual,” Hutchinson said. 

The governor said as a precaution, he was administered an antigen Covid-19 test early Monday morning, followed by a PCR test that was also negative. 

According to Hutchinson, the meeting with the infected individual did not lot rise to the level of CDC quarantine guidance. The governor said that “out of an abundance of caution,” he would be limiting his meetings in order to make sure no one is inadvertently exposed. 

“That's a comfort matter, I don't want people in a meeting with me that feel uncomfortable, because I might have been around somebody that, even though they were 10 feet away, that there might have been, that they ultimately tested positive. And so this is really out of an abundance of caution,” Hutchinson said. 

Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said it is the Health Department’s recommendation that the governor undergo testing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and again on Monday of next week, with both rapid tests and PCR based test being offered to the governor. Additional testing will be added as necessary, the health secretary said.

3:54 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Coronavirus hospital admissions increasing in France

From CNN’s Barbara Wojazer in Paris

Medical staff members transport a patient infected with COVID-19 at the intensive care unit of Lariboisiere Hospital in Paris, on October 14.
Medical staff members transport a patient infected with COVID-19 at the intensive care unit of Lariboisiere Hospital in Paris, on October 14. Lucas Barioulet/AFP/Getty Images

For two days in a row, the number of people in the hospital with coronavirus rose by more than 700 in 24 hours, according to numbers released by the national health agency on Tuesday.

In the last 24 hours, 795 new coronavirus patients were admitted to the hospital, according to the health agency.

The overall number of people currently in the hospital for coronavirus now stands at 12,435.

On Monday, the number of new hospital admissions for coronavirus had risen by 743, to 11,640. 

To compare, last Tuesday there were 257 new Covid-19 hospitalizations in France, according to the health agency website.