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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9:47 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Idaho sees highest single-day rise in Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The state of Idaho recorded 1,781 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the highest single-day increase in infections since the pandemic began, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The previous daily high was reported last Wednesday, at 1,693 cases.

Tuesday also saw 35 additional coronavirus-related fatalities, bringing the state’s total death count to 798. That’s a rate of about 44 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

9:33 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Chicago announces January return to classroom for public schools

From CNN's Gisela Crespo and Brad Parks

Jasmine Gilliam and Lucy Baldwin, teachers at King Elementary School, prepare to teach their students remotely in empty classrooms during the first day of classes on September 8, in Chicago.
Jasmine Gilliam and Lucy Baldwin, teachers at King Elementary School, prepare to teach their students remotely in empty classrooms during the first day of classes on September 8, in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago schools will resume in-person learning in January, officials announced Tuesday.

Pre-kindergarten and students enrolled in intensive and moderate cluster classrooms will go back to school on January 11, while students from kindergarten to 9th grade will return on Feb. 1, according to a joint news release by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

"The reality is that our Black and Latinx students, our youngest students and highest-need learners have not been equitably served,” Lightfoot said. “The decision to begin in-person learning this January will restore their access to high-quality instruction and is the result of balancing our commitment to equity with our current public health situation."

According to the CPS website, cluster programs are designed for students who require a significantly modified curriculum with moderate to intensive support in classrooms separated from general education peers for most of the day.

"The health of our students, their families and our school communities remain our top priority, and we will continue to work closely with CPS and CDPH to ensure their safety as they transition back to the classroom," the mayor added.

Criticism from teachers: In a news release responding to the announcement, the Chicago Teacher's Union called the city's timeline for reopening schools "arbitrary." 

The union argues the announcement was made "without input from parents, students, educators or other critical stakeholders, and is wholly de-linked from any health criteria, including community infection rates." 

“Today’s announcement appears to be based on the mayor’s political agenda, because it sure isn’t based on science,” union president Jesse Sharkey said in the release. “Just unilaterally picking an arbitrary date in the future and hoping everything works out is a recipe for disaster.”

8:31 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Chinese Covid-19 vaccine seen as safe in early stage trials, study finds

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

A staff member tests samples of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine at a Sinovac Lab in Beijing on March 16.
A staff member tests samples of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine at a Sinovac Lab in Beijing on March 16. Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via Getty

A mid-stage trial shows that a Chinese made Covid-19 vaccine seems to be safe, according to a study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases Tuesday.

Sinovac, the Chinese company that makes the Coronavac vaccine candidate, tested it in a randomized controlled trial involving 700 healthy adult volunteers between April and May. None of the volunteers had a history of a Covid-19 infection. None had traveled in areas with a high rate of the disease.

Volunteers in the Phase 2 trial were divided into three groups. One group got a low dose of the vaccine, another got a higher dose and a third received a placebo.

This particular vaccine uses a chemically inactivated whole virus based on a sample taken from a patient in China. Most of the other coronavirus vaccines in development use biotechnology approaches to produce just a fragment of the virus. Using a whole, killed virus is an older, tried and true method that makes vaccine production slower and that doctors say can produce more side-effects.

The results: The vaccine was well tolerated at all the dose levels, and there didn’t seem to be any safety concerns, according to the researchers, which include experts from the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China's National Institutes for Food and Drug Control, and Sinovac.

The most common complaint was pain at the injection site. One volunteer in the high dose group had a severe allergic reaction within 48 hours of the first dose, which researchers said may be related to the vaccine, but the volunteer was treated for the reaction and recovered within three days. The same volunteer did not have a similar allergic reaction to the second shot.  

Even at the lowest dose, volunteers who received the vaccine seemed to show a robust antibody response within 14 days of the second of two injections. The injections were given 14 days apart.  

What about efficacy? The levels of antibodies produced by vaccination were lower than in the volunteers who were infected by, and had recovered from, Covid-19 during the trial, but the researchers said they still expected it could provide protection. The study wasn’t designed to determine how effective it was.

There may be advantages to this vaccine, according to one researcher who worked at the company that made it. This vaccine only needs standard refrigeration. It also may remain stable for up to three years in storage.

The company is continuing its trials to determine how effective the vaccine is.

7:43 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

NIH director hopes most Americans are vaccinated and immune to Covid-19 by next summer

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health testifies during a US Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on July 2 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health testifies during a US Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on July 2 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Francis Collins hopes most Americans will be immune to Covid-19 by next summer after receiving coronavirus vaccines.

The director of the National Institutes of Health told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he expects Pfizer and Moderna shots could be available as soon as next month for those at greatest risk.

“If these two vaccines do get approval, emergency use authorization, there will be about 40 million doses ready to be delivered in December,” Collins said.

People will need two doses of either vaccine. “So that's 20 million people that can be immunized and we will need to make sure that is utilized for the highest risk people,” he said. 

More doses will become available every month after that, Collins said, and there are other vaccine candidates that may also win approval.

“The hope would be that by April we really start to see a lot of people getting immunized and certainly by the summer we would hope to have most of America actually immune to this and we could start to think about getting back to life as normal,” Collins said.

Collins noted that Americans will need to agree to get the vaccine, once it’s available.

“My hope is now with more data and with a reassurance that this is being done in a highly independent, non-political way that people will begin to trust that this is something that they will want to take advantage. I know I will,” he said.

6:51 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Pennsylvania requiring out-of-state travelers to test negative for Covid before entering the state

From CNN's Laura Ly

Out-of-state travelers coming into Pennsylvania must now have a negative Covid-19 test before entering the state, according to a new order from the state’s Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

“If you do not have your test results when you come to Pennsylvania, then you need to quarantine until you get a negative test result. If you can’t get a test, are waiting for your results, or choose not to get a test, you must quarantine for 14 days once you arrive into our state,” Levine said Tuesday. 

Any Pennsylvanians who travels back home from other states are also subject to the same rules, but the new order does not apply to out-of-state residents who commute to Pennsylvania for work daily or those who come to the state for medical treatment.

The new order takes effect Friday, Levine said.

7:10 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Sen. Chuck Grassley tests positive for Covid-19 

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

Sen. Chuck Grassley attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the Crossfire Hurricane investigation on Capitol Hill on November 10 in Washington.
Sen. Chuck Grassley attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the Crossfire Hurricane investigation on Capitol Hill on November 10 in Washington. Jason Andrew-Pool/Getty Images

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has tested positive for Covid-19, he announced in a tweet Tuesday.

"I’ve tested positive for coronavirus," the Iowa Republican tweeted.

Grassley, 87, was in the Senate on Monday and presided over the chamber as it opened and spoke on the floor as well, removing his mask as he spoke. He went into isolation Tuesday after being exposed to someone with Covid-19.

Earlier his top aide would not say who the person is that exposed the senator to Covid-19.

The aide also said people who have been in contact with the senator have been “appropriately notified” about the potential exposure. 

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who is in the Senate GOP leadership, said Grassley attended their Monday Republican leadership meeting.

Asked if any of those who attended the meeting will quarantine, Blunt, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, told reporters, “You'd have to ask them.” 

He added that, “I was like, 12 feet away from him at the meeting that’s why we’re in that big room.” 

On whether there are there any other precautions being taken, as Grassley presided over the Senate floor on Monday and attended meetings, Blunt said Tuesday, “He did. He did. And he's been great about wearing his mask and I think great about taking care of himself, and so I think he's done everything he can… Does everything he could be expected to do to protect himself and the rest of us. People catch this.”

Blunt has advocated for coronavirus testing to be available in the Senate since the summer.

Sen. John Barrasso told CNN that they were "all spread out" at the leadership meeting. He also confirmed Grassley attended the meeting.

Asked if they will have to take extra precautions now since Grassley tested positive, Barrasso, who is also in GOP leadership, told CNN, “Not that I know of."

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who attended Monday’s leadership meeting, said they were wearing masks.

11:07 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

This Nebraska dad is building hundreds of desks to help kids succeed in remote learning

When the pandemic started and Marcus Holley's kids started virtual learning, he was struggling to find a work space for them.

He went to several stores before he realized all of the desks were sold out.

"A lightbulb went off," he said. "I got to build them some desks."

And not having any woodworking or construction experience didn't stop him from accomplishing that goal. He pulled up some videos on YouTube, found something he liked and tried to mimic it.

The desks were a hit.

Now, he's making hundreds of desks for kids in need across his community. He has received thousands of dollars in donations to buy the supplies through his GoFundMe page. Some people have also sent him building materials like a saw and nails to help with the project.

"A lot of support came in," Holley said. "It's still coming in."

Holley said he has made up to 170 desks to donate so far, and has at least 200 more to build. His GoFundMe has raised more than $8,000.

But he's not done yet. Now, he is reaching out to community organizations to continue to raise money as virtual learning remains a reality for many families.

Holley said the whole effort was never about profit, and has always been about helping other people.

"That's the time I feel like I'm happiest is when I'm helping others, helping kids. That's when I feel like I'm at the best," Holley said.


This post has been updated to reflect that Marcus Holley is from Nebraska.

6:49 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Montana governor takes mask mandate statewide

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Gov. Steve Bullock attends a Democratic Party "Get Out The Vote" rally encouraging volunteers to go knock doors three days before Election Day, on Saturday, October 31, in Bozeman, Montana.
Gov. Steve Bullock attends a Democratic Party "Get Out The Vote" rally encouraging volunteers to go knock doors three days before Election Day, on Saturday, October 31, in Bozeman, Montana. Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP

In response to the rapid increase of coronavirus cases, the governor of Montana is taking a public mask mandate statewide.

“These are decisions that I don't take lightly, yet they are a necessity,” Gov. Steve Bullock said at a news conference Tuesday.

Previously, the mask mandate was enforced on a county-by-county basis, based on how high the Covid-19 case rate was in each county. Starting Friday, all coronavirus health restrictions will apply statewide. Additionally, restrictions on businesses are being tightened.

“Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos will be required to operate at no more than 50% of normal capacity and close no later than 10 p.m.,” said Bullock.

Restaurants will be able to serve a maximum of six people per table, down from the current limit of 10. Public gatherings where social distancing is not possible will be limited to 25 people.

Bullock said the state will provide more grants to assist businesses that are affected by the new rules, but also called on Congress to come to an agreement for more relief. “The needs that they have are greater than what we can give them with the remaining coronavirus relief funds,” Bullock said.

Bullock, a Democrat, lost his race for a US Senate seat this month and will leave office in January. The new governor will be current Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte who has previously expressed a reluctance to enforce statewide mandates to control coronavirus.

6:45 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Here's why mouthwash is not going to save you from coronavirus

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A study trending on social media suggests an ingredient found in mouthwash can kill the novel coronavirus. But mouthwash is unlikely to ever be a solution to the pandemic, or even someone’s own personal protection plan, doctors tell CNN.

That’s because many things can kill a virus on contact, but they’re not going to stop the source of the virus.

“Yes. There is some data out there – I am not saying it’s great data – that fill-in-the-blank substance inactivates or inhibits replication of coronavirus,” Dr. Graham Snyder, associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told CNN.

Alcohol, chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide and a range of other compounds can all kill viruses on contact or shortly after.

But none of the studies recently released on preprint servers shows they can reduce the risk of either catching or transmitting the virus, Snyder points out.

Inside the human body, the virus is constantly replicating in the upper respiratory tract – in the nose, the sinuses, the throat, bronchial tubes and lungs.

“It is still in your nose, in the fluid on your vocal cords, and in your lung airways,” said Dr. Donald Milton, who studies the transmission of viruses at the University of Maryland.

“All of these and especially the vocal cords and lung airways are major sources of the virus in the air,” Milton told CNN.

“When we exhale, cough, sneeze or what have you, virus could be coming from any of those places,” Snyder said.

While using a mouthwash or some kind of oral rinse could in theory reduce the amount of virus or bacteria in someone’s mouth for a short period, it’s not possible to sterilize a human mouth, and any microbe will grow back again in a fairly short time.

“You can’t sterilize your mouth. It is never going to be totally free of pathogens,” Snyder said.

Mouthwash or other disinfectants also will do little to protect someone from inhaling virus, said Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and visiting professor of Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University School of Public Health.

“Washing your mouth or nose won't prevent the virus from being breathed in. But wearing a mask does – and so does keeping good physical distance,” Wen said.