November 17 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Sebastian Shukla and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, November 18, 2020
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4:46 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

More Americans see normal activities as risky, new poll finds 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Customers dine in bubble tents at a restaurant in New York on November 10.
Customers dine in bubble tents at a restaurant in New York on November 10. Gabriela Bhaskar/Bloomberg/Getty Images

More American adults are starting to see so-called normal activities as risky, according to new poll results released by Axios-Ipsos on Tuesday. 

Seventy one percent of Americans now see attending in-person gatherings as a large or moderate risk and 68% have this view on in-person dining at a restaurant. Both these percentages are up from 63% and 61%, respectively, in late October, according to the poll, which was based on a nationally representative survey of 1,092 US adults conducted between Nov. 13 and 16.

The number of Republicans who see in-person gatherings as risky has grown from 40% in late October to 52% now. For indoor dining, the percentage rose from 37% to 45%. 

Three quarters of those surveyed also said they see spending time in public places as the weather gets colder as a large to moderate risk. 

Americans are also starting to stay away from others more, although not to the extent of the first shutdown in April. Sixty percent of those surveyed said have not visited friends or family in the last week and 76% reported social distancing. 

When it comes to the holidays, 75% of Americans see traveling to be risky. The survey found 45% plan to spend holidays within their own households and 8% within a “holiday bubble.” Another 17% said they will spend the holiday with non-household members. 

The poll also looked at public health and state of mind, vaccine interest and trust in President-elect Joe Biden. 

The number of Americans who said they were likely to get a first-generation vaccine when one is available went up from 38% in early October to 45% now. Sixty eight percent said that they would likely get a vaccine that has been proven safe. The poll was conducted after Pfizer’s vaccine announcement and before Moderna’s.

4:47 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Pfizer has kept both Trump and Biden's teams informed about vaccine developments, CEO says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas


Pfizer has kept both President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden’s teams informed about the development of the company’s coronavirus vaccine, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday.

Bourla said that he has not spoken personally to Biden, but Pfizer has kept the Biden team in the loop.  

“Our team, throughout the process, kept informed both the White House and the Biden campaign in all the developments of our vaccine,” Bourla said in an interview hosted by The New York Times. 

Bourla said that Pfizer has also kept leadership in Congress informed and will continue to do so.

“I don't think it’s ideal that we are starting, like in the middle of a transition,” said Bourla. “It's always better when there is clear accountability and leadership, but I think that that will not become a problem.”

Watch Dr. Gupta report:


4:16 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Utah's 7-day average for new coronavirus cases tops 3,000

From CNN’s Andy Rose

A county health department public health nurse performs a coronavirus test on November 13 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A county health department public health nurse performs a coronavirus test on November 13 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rick Bowmer/AP

Utah passed a new milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, as its seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases topped 3,000 for the first time.

The state's department of health announced 3,178 new cases, bringing the rolling one-week average to 3,056.

Utah’s case count for the pandemic is now 158,957, with 732 deaths. All 29 counties are listed as having a “very high rate” of coronavirus.

3:39 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Pfizer prepares to file for emergency use authorization after vaccine reaches safety milestone, CEO says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

The Pfizer vaccine trial has reached its safety milestone and the company is preparing to file for emergency use authorization, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday.

Pfizer announced on Nov. 9 that its coronavirus vaccine appears to be more than 90% effective, based on early data.

But the company did not yet have enough data to seek emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration, which said it also wanted at least two months of safety data on at least half of a vaccine trial’s volunteers starting from when they got their second immunization.

“I think the questions about the safety at large also have been answered,” Bourla said in an interview hosted by The New York Times. “Our safety milestone has been achieved already, and we are preparing now for submissions.”

Bourla said they are not yet sure how durable the protection from their vaccine will be. The Pfizer vaccine uses a messenger RNA, or mRNA, platform to produce an immune response.

“With the mRNA technology, you can boost as soon as you want,” said Bourla. People can be given an additional dose of a vaccine once immunity wears off, referred to as a boost.

Bourla said that a boost, if needed, would likely require only one dose.


3:41 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

France becomes first country in Europe to reach 2 million coronavirus cases

From Pierre Bairin in Paris

Medical personnel attend to a Covid-19 patient at an intensive care unit in Muret, France, on November 17.
Medical personnel attend to a Covid-19 patient at an intensive care unit in Muret, France, on November 17. Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

France has become the first country in Europe to top two million confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the French national health agency.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, the country’s health agency director Jerome Salomon confirmed that the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in France now stands at at least 2,036,755.

 “Whether in cities or in rural areas, all regions, all metropolitan departments, are affected,” Salomon said. 

“This second wave, which we are all facing, is massive, deadly and is straining all of our caregivers and our health system as a whole,” he added.

While France has now registered the highest cumulative number of coronavirus cases in Europe overall, Salomon noted that the current coronavirus reproduction rate in France is now below one, while the daily number of new cases has declined in the last week.

“In recent days, the number of new cases has declined, redoubling efforts to regain control of the epidemic,” Salomon said, adding that public adherence to national coronavirus restrictions is now “beginning to bear fruit” in France.

“All collective efforts, respect for curfews and national confinement measures serve to explain this positive trend. It is by maintaining a very high level of vigilance and mobilization that we will be able to spend the end-of-year celebrations and the winter months in the safest conditions,” he added.

According to the latest data from the national health agency, a total of 33,139 coronavirus patients are currently in hospital – down by 327 since Monday – with 4,838 of those in intensive care.

A further 1,219 coronavirus patients have died since Monday, the national health agency added, bringing the total death toll in France to 46,273.

3:27 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

US government agency warns of possible coronavirus vaccine production bottlenecks

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Production bottlenecks and other shortages could slow efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines quickly to the American public, the US Government Accountability Office cautioned in a report released Tuesday. 

A GAO review of Operation Warp Speed found several chokepoints in the efforts to develop and distribute any vaccines that may win emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. 

They include limited manufacturing capacity, the GAO said.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, most existing vaccine manufacturing capacity was already in use, according to experts we interviewed. Therefore, new capacity has had to be created, or production shifted from other products,” the report read.

“Additionally, once bulk quantities of vaccines or therapeutics are produced, they must be sealed into sterile containers, such as vials or syringes, in a process known as fill-finish manufacturing. Experts from three pharmaceutical industry groups we interviewed said there is a shortage of facilities with capacity to handle fill-finish manufacturing, which could lead to production bottlenecks," the agency added.

The pandemic itself also has disrupted the supply chain, the report found.

“For example, officials at one Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing facility told us that they have experienced challenges obtaining materials, including disposable reactor bags, reagents, and certain chemicals. They also said that due to global demand, they sometimes must wait 4-12 weeks for items that before the pandemic were typically available for shipment within one week,” the report read. “One expert we interviewed also told us that the supply of the materials used in fill-finish manufacturing, such as glass vials and pre-filled syringes, is limited.”

Plus, good staff can be hard to find: “The ability to hire and train personnel with the specialized skills needed to run vaccine manufacturing processes may be a challenge for even experienced manufacturers. For example, we heard from representatives at a Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing facility that filling open positions for mid- to upper management positions had been a challenge.”

The GAO said it had told the Health and Human Services Department, Department of Defense and other agencies about the problems it found.

“Through Operation Warp Speed, federal agencies and vaccine manufacturers said they are working together to mitigate these challenges,” it said.

3:20 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

FDA sets meeting for vaccine advisory committee

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen

The US Food and Drug Administration has called for a meeting of its vaccine advisory committee in three weeks to consider whether the agency should authorize two Covid-19 vaccines, according to a source familiar with the process. 

The FDA reached out last week to members of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a group of outside experts, asking them to hold Dec. 8, 9 and 10 for meetings, according to the source. 

The agency could make a decision at the end of the meeting on Dec. 10 about whether to issue emergency use authorizations for the vaccines, the source said. 

Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, say they will soon apply to the FDA for authorization for their Covid-19 vaccines, both of which have shown in initial data to be more than 90% effective against Covid-19. 

“It will make sense that in all likelihood the FDA will consider both applications together,” the source said, considering that both vaccines use the same technology and appear to have very similar safety and efficacy results from their large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials. 

If the FDA authorizes the vaccines, they can then be immediately distributed to states, according to a presentation made last month at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, no one can be vaccinated until a CDC advisory committee reviews the data, recommends the vaccine, and says which groups will receive it first. 

If the FDA authorizes the vaccines, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an independent panel of experts, will meet within 24 to 48 hours, according to a CDC spokesperson. 

At that meeting, the committee will determine if everyone should get the vaccine, or if some people should be excluded. It will also decide which groups should get the vaccine first. 

“We have all been alerted on ACIP we should be very flexible with our calendars because it’s likely there won’t be a lot of advanced notice given for this meeting. It will be done very, very quickly,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a committee member. 

Once ACIP issues its recommendations, vaccinations can be given. 

The nation’s top infectious disease physician, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN earlier this week the first vaccinations in the US could take place “towards the latter part of December.” 

States are currently working out the details of running vaccination clinics. The Pfizer vaccine is particularly complicated, since it must be stored at minus 75 degrees Celsius, and doctors’ offices and pharmacies typically do not have freezers that go that low. 

The first groups expected to receive the vaccine are health care workers, the elderly, essential works such as police officers, and those with underlying medical conditions. 

3:16 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

NFL Covid-19 positive tests remain elevated in latest testing window

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

The National Football League and NFL Players Association announced 17 new confirmed positive Covid-19 tests among players and 35 new positive tests among other team personnel in the past week of testing.  

The numbers from the most recent testing window are comparable to the totals from the previous week, which saw 15 players and 41 team personnel test positive. The past two weeks have seen a marked increase in positive test results in the NFL, which the league’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills attributes to the increase in Covid-19 cases nationwide.  

The NFL and NFLPA have been monitoring Covid-19 testing results for 15 weeks this season with 40% of the positive cases among players and staff coming in just the past two weeks. 

“I think it reflects the continued uptick that we’re seeing in cases around the country,” Sills said in a conference call on Tuesday. “We’ve seen that throughout the course of our season that as our players coaches and staff are exposed to others outside the team facility, we’re going to see these cases.”

3:58 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Tourism in New York City may not recover until 2024, agency says

From CNN’s Alison Kosik

In its annual forecast on travel and tourism, New York City’s tourism promotion agency predicts that the city will get only a third as many visitors in 2020 than it did in 2019 due to “uncertainty generated by the pandemic.”

NYC & Co. said the NYC travel industry started 2020 with a “very strong performance in January, February and early March,” but that the measures put in place to address the pandemic “put practically all leisure and most business travel on hold.”

“Given the uncertainty generated by the pandemic for economic recovery and consumer confidence in travel, the conservative outlook takes us to 2024 to top the 2019 benchmark,” the forecast said

NYC & Co. said the current level of visitors is 66% below 2019 levels. The international market fares far worse — down 80% compared to last year.

The group said it’s worth noting that international travel after Sept. 11, 2001 took four full years to recover.

“While the full recovery of global tourism will be gradual following the wide distribution of successful vaccines in 2021, we are bullish on New York City’s recovery and its enduring appeal to travelers. Given significant pent-up demand, we target regaining half our 2019 volume by end of 2021 and to be fully back three years from then,” said NYC & Co. President and CEO Fred Dixon.