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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3:19 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Breast milk not a likely source of Covid-19 transmission, CDC says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

In this December 12, 2019 file photo, a 3-ounce serving of breast milk is ready to be shipped out to nearby hospitals from the Mountain West Mothers Milk Bank in Salt Lake City.
In this December 12, 2019 file photo, a 3-ounce serving of breast milk is ready to be shipped out to nearby hospitals from the Mountain West Mothers Milk Bank in Salt Lake City. Natalie Behring/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued revised guidance on Monday for women who are breastfeeding while they have suspected or confirmed Covid-19, saying breast milk is "not a likely source of infection."

Previously, the CDC had said it was not known whether mothers could transmit the virus via breast milk.

In the latest guidance, the agency said a woman with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 should follow guidelines on home quarantine or isolation. The child being breastfed should be considered a close contact and be quarantined during the parent's recommended period of home isolation and for 14 days thereafter.

The guidelines also suggest precautions while breastfeeding for those with suspected or confirmed Covid-19:

  • Wash hands before touching child or expressing breast milk
  • Wear a mask when less than 6 feet from the child
  • Clean and sanitize breast pumps

If the mother prefers not to breast feed or bottle feed their child while sick, the CDC said a healthy caregiver who is not at risk for severe illness from Covid-19 may feed expressed breast milk to the child.

If the child has suspected or confirmed Covid-19, the agency recommends mothers wear masks while breastfeeding and wash hands frequently.

2:47 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Don't take plasma from people who have been vaccinated to treat coronavirus, FDA cautions

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

A lab technician freezes packs of convalescent plasma donated by recovered Covid-19 patients for shipping to local hospitals at Inova Blood Services on April 22, in Dulles, Virginia.
A lab technician freezes packs of convalescent plasma donated by recovered Covid-19 patients for shipping to local hospitals at Inova Blood Services on April 22, in Dulles, Virginia. Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against using blood from people who have received experimental vaccine shots when taking convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients.

"You should not collect Covid-19 convalescent plasma from individuals who have received an investigational Covid-19 vaccine because of the uncertainty,” it said in an updated guidance.

The FDA also extended the enforcement discretion for its emergency use authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma through the end of February. 

Some context: The agency issued an EUA in August for the use of blood plasma from people who have recovered from coronavirus infections to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19. Their plasma is filled with antibodies against the virus and can kickstart a patient’s immune response -- although the levels of antibodies and other immune compounds varies depending on the donor. 

2:06 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Packed morgues and excess deaths tell a darker story than Russia's official Covid numbers suggest

From CNN's Matthew Chance, Zahra Ullah and Mary Ilyushina

The limbs of a lifeless body hang off a stretcher in a hospital ward as coronavirus patients battle for their lives just a few feet away. An elderly woman gasps for breath, her desperate panting a grim soundtrack to one of many disturbing cell-phone videos emerging from hospitals across Russia.

"This is how our nights look: horrifying," says a male voice narrating the footage, given to CNN by a prominent opposition-linked Russian doctors' union, "Doctors' Alliance," which says it was recorded in mid-October by a hospital staff member in Ulyanovsk, a city around 500 miles east of Moscow.

"Two more down in our ward," he says, while filming a corpse. "This is how Covid-19 is killing everybody."

This grisly video is just one of several obtained by CNN that reveal appalling conditions inside overcrowded facilities. Some footage shows morgues with bodies, stripped naked, piled on top of each other on grimy floors, in scenes that look like war zones more than hospitals.

As Russia struggles to get the pandemic under control, the videos are one of several signs pointing to an actual death toll far higher than official figures suggest.

Russia says as of November 16 more than 33,000 people have died of Covid-19. But that number is disputed by critics who say the Kremlin is underreporting the numbers.

"I think the real figure is (around) 130,000 people," said Alexey Raksha, a former government statistician who has made his estimates based on official data on excess deaths -- the number of fatalities above what would normally be expected -- to assess the toll of the pandemic.

Read the full story:

1:40 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

US reports more than 166,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton

The United States reported 166,045 new Covid-19 cases and 995 additional virus-related deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US has now recorded at least 11,202,980 cases, including 247,202 fatalities.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

CNN is tracking US Covid-19 cases:

1:23 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

South Korea to strengthen social distancing measures in Seoul

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

Visitors wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus, sit on chairs while maintaining social distancing in Seoul, South Korea on Monday, November 16.
Visitors wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus, sit on chairs while maintaining social distancing in Seoul, South Korea on Monday, November 16. Lee Jin-man/AP

The Seoul Metropolitan Area will strengthen social distancing rules from Thursday, South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, as the country reported more than 200 Covid-19 cases for a third consecutive day.

"We judge that the disease prevention effort is facing a crisis," Chung said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said at the same briefing that unlike previous waves of infections, recent trends show small but numerous clusters occurring in restaurants and gatherings.

The city’s social distancing measures have now been upgraded to level 1.5, the second highest of five levels. The new rules include:

  • Only 66% of students will be allowed in classes
  • Religious gatherings outside of regular services will be banned
  • Places of worship will limit the number of attendees to 30%
  • Restaurants will be required to erect dividers
  • Bars and wedding halls must only allow one person per 4 square meters

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in acknowledged the negative impact of these measures on small businesses, but urged the public to cooperate.

"Please understand that it is an unavoidable measure to prevent further spread and damage, and fully cooperate," Moon said.

South Korea recorded 230 new Covid-19 cases for Monday, of which 137 cases were found in Seoul. The country has recorded a total of 28,998 cases and 494 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

12:50 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Navajo Nation goes into a 3-week lockdown

From CNN’s Andy Rose

A sign warning non-residents to stay out of the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City during a 57-hour curfew, imposed to try to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus through the Navajo Nation, in Arizona on May 24.
A sign warning non-residents to stay out of the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City during a 57-hour curfew, imposed to try to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus through the Navajo Nation, in Arizona on May 24. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Navajo Nation began a three-week “stay-at-home lockdown” period on Monday in response to a surge in coronavirus cases,

Residents are allowed to leave their homes only for emergencies and “essential activities” like shopping for groceries or working at an essential business. Those businesses must close each day at 3 p.m.

“We have a three-week lockdown in place now to help isolate those individuals who are positive for COVID-19,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement. “When we isolate people, we isolate the virus.”

The Navajo Nation -- which is located within parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah -- announced 197 new Covid-19 cases on Monday. That raises the tribe's total number of recorded infections to 13,596 since the pandemic began.

Last week, the Navajo Department of Health identified 34 communities with “uncontrolled spread.” Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that across the US, Native Americans infected with Covid-19 are about 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized than non-Hispanic White people. 

Read more about the Covid-19 hospitalizations here:

12:19 a.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Pfizer to test coronavirus vaccine distribution in 4 US states

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Drugmaker Pfizer announced on Monday it would test distribution of its coronavirus vaccine candidate in four US states: Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee.

Pfizer said last week that preliminary data indicated its experimental vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infections in people. The company still has to gather more data before it can apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for the vaccine.

Temperature testing: A key part of this testing will gauge how hard it is to deal with a product that has to be kept at temperatures well below the capacity of standard freezers.

State and local health officials, hospital representatives and others have expressed concern about the difficulty of distributing a fragile vaccine that needs constant, ultra-cold refrigeration. Careful records will also have to be kept, to ensure that everyone who gets the vaccine receives two doses, spaced three weeks apart.

The four states: “To build on our coordination with the relevant U.S. agencies, Pfizer launched this pilot program to help better support the states’ planning, deployment, and administration of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate,” the company said in a statement.

It did not say what, precisely, would happen in the pilot program but said it would learn from the scheme to help create plans for other states. 

The four states were selected because of their differences in size, population diversity, and their varied urban and rural settings, Pfizer said.

11:47 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Vaccine development is a safe, tried and true process, Fauci says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasized on Monday that the vaccine development process is safe and transparent.

It is not possible to “sneak through” a vaccine that is not safe, Fauci told the American Medical Informatics Association 2020 Virtual Annual Symposium.

“The process upon which a vaccine decision is made as to safety and efficacy is a well-tried and true process,” he said.

Just because Covid-19 vaccines have been developed quickly, it doesn’t mean safety and efficacy have been compromised, Fauci noted. 

Independent safety monitor: Data from the vaccine trials are analyzed by an independent data and safety monitoring board "who answer to no one, is not beholden to the administration. They're not beholden to the company," he said.

“When you have an independent body, I think most people think that there could be shenanigans going on that, you know, the company makes a deal with these people to get the vaccine. That is impossible to happen ... The idea that we can sneak through something that is not transparent and secretive is an impossibility."

Some context: Moderna announced on Monday that its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective against the virus. Last week, Pfizer announced that early data show its vaccine is more than 90% effective against the disease.

11:33 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Japanese store tests "clerk robots" that can detect if customers are not wearing masks

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) is testing a clerk robot in Osaka that detects if customers are not wearing masks.
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) is testing a clerk robot in Osaka that detects if customers are not wearing masks. Advanced Telecommunications Research

A store in Japan's Osaka prefecture is experimenting with a new "clerk robot" that can detect if a customer is not wearing a mask.

The robot is designed to move around the store and provide customer service such as guiding customers to products, according to a news release from the developer, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).

It also uses an attached camera to monitor customers for "unsuitable actions" like not wearing a mask or social distancing.

"If such behavior is discovered, the clerk robot will approach the customer and alert them," the news release said.

ATR developed the robot in November, and is testing it at J-League soccer club Cerezo Osaka's mega store in Osaka.

The release added that robot development is essential for tasks because of labor shortages from a declining birthrate and ageing population in Japan.

"Demonstration experiments of a clerk robot that simultaneously provides customer service and alert service while moving in a small environment such as inside a store is the most advanced attempt in the world," ATR said.

Japan reported 952 new Covid-19 cases on Monday after a run of seven consecutive days with more than 1,000 new infections. The nationwide total stands at 120,038.