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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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. 

10:12 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Los Angeles mayor warns of "very dangerous situation" amid surge of Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to stay at home as much as possible for the next few weeks, as coronavirus cases surge across the county and California.

“Los Angeles is in a very dangerous situation,” Garcetti said. “We must stay home as much as possible for the next two to three weeks except for accessing essential services.”

The county is currently seeing the highest daily case numbers since the middle of July, according to Garcetti. Infection rates are rising, and hospitalizations are increasing. 

“The situation in L.A. is more concerning than it’s ever been,” he added. “I don’t say this to scare you, I don’t say this to try to spin the numbers, it is just the truth.”

Coronavirus response: The county is expanding its testing sites and will be offering testing for passengers and employees at Los Angeles International Airport, where results can be expected within 24 hours. 

Travel during the holidays: Garcetti strongly urged residents to cancel any non-essential travel plans.

“If you don’t have essential travel, don’t travel,” he said. “If you don’t have to take a trip as an essential worker or because of a family emergency, don’t travel.”

A statewide travel advisory was issued on Friday asking all California residents to avoid non-essential travel to other states or countries. 

8:11 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Covid-19 hospitalizations top 70,000 in US

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Virginia Langmaid

There are now more than 70,000 people hospitalized in the United States with Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

On Monday, 73,014 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, according to CTP. This is the highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations the nation has ever experienced, and is at least 10,000 more hospitalizations higher than its spring and summer peaks.

The US currently averages more than 3,500 new hospitalizations per day, CTP data shows.

According to CTP data, these are the highest hospitalization numbers:

  1. Nov. 16: 73,014
  2. Nov. 15: 69,864
  3. Nov. 14: 69,455
  4. Nov. 13: 68,516
  5. Nov. 12: 67,096
8:21 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Countries letting coronavirus go unchecked are "playing with fire," WHO director-general says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said countries allowing the coronavirus to go “unchecked” are playing with fire. 

“This is a dangerous virus, which can attack every system in the body,” he said during a news conference in Geneva on Monday. “Those countries that are letting the virus run unchecked are playing with fire.” 

Tedros did not name any particular country, but said there will be further needless deaths and suffering, and there are a significant number of people who are experiencing long-term effects of the virus. Health workers are facing extreme mental health pressure and cases are burdening health systems severely in too many countries, Tedros said. 

He said that health workers went into medicine to save lives, and they must not be put in a position where they have to make impossible choices about who to care for. 

“We need to do everything we can to support health workers, keep schools open, protect the vulnerable and safeguard the economy,” Tedros said. 

“There is no excuse for inaction. My message is very clear: act fast, act now, act decisively,” Tedros said. “A laissez-faire attitude to the virus -- not using the full range of tools available -- leads to death, suffering and hurts livelihoods and economies.”