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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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.

6:09 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine may not give everyone the same degree of protection, Fauci says

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A Covid-19 vaccine may not give everyone the same degree of protection against the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

“It isn't necessarily effective for every single person, so you don't know the degree to which you're protected,” Fauci said during a Spectrum News interview.

Makers of two coronavirus vaccine candidates say they are more than 90% effective in preliminary data.

“A vaccine could prevent you from getting sick, but not necessarily prevent you from being infected,” Fauci added. “Although you're vaccinated and protected from illness, you might be infected and could conceivably transmit the infection to someone else.”

Once vaccinated, reasonably healthy people will be able to cut back on some of the more stringent public health measures, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“But you don't want to abandon them completely and put yourself and your family at risk,” he said.

Fauci added that people should look at a coronavirus vaccine as just one tool in an “armamentarium of prevention.”

5:26 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Pfizer CEO says he has "zero concerns" about cold chain requirements for coronavirus vaccine

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

CEO of Pfizer Inc. Albert Bourla, DVM, Ph.D. attends 2019 Forbes Healthcare Summit at the Jazz at Lincoln Center on December 05, 2019 in New York City.
CEO of Pfizer Inc. Albert Bourla, DVM, Ph.D. attends 2019 Forbes Healthcare Summit at the Jazz at Lincoln Center on December 05, 2019 in New York City. Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that he has “zero concerns” about the cold chain requirements associated with Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine needs to be stored at about minus 75 degrees Celsius, or more than minus 100 degrees F — far colder than the standard freezers kept in doctors’ offices, pharmacies and state labs.

Pfizer plans to distribute the vaccine using custom made boxes created by the company’s engineers, Bourla said in an interview hosted by The New York Times. 

“Those boxes are isothermic boxes, that they have a GPS, and they have also a (thermometer) inside, so we know at any point where the box is, and what is the temperature, so if something goes wrong, which we don't anticipate, we will not use the vaccine,” he said.

Bourla said that each box can hold about 1,000 to 5,000 vaccine doses. He said that the boxes eliminate the need for additional refrigeration during delivery. 

“We can ship it in normal cars, trucks, airplanes, boats, whatever,” he said.

Bourla said Pfizer will be able to ship the vaccine to most places in the US overnight.

“Once we receive an address from the government, the next day, the product will be there,” he said. “Once people receive it, they can keep it for weeks in the box, or they can keep it for months in freezers.”

Bourla said he is more concerned about the demand for the vaccine than the storage requirements.

“The biggest challenge will be that in the beginning, the dose availability will be smaller than the demand,” he said.

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

Tennessee ramps up Covid-19 testing ahead of Thanksgiving

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch 

National Guard Sgt. Aaron Brummett tests residents of the Barry Towers in downtown Memphis for Covid-19 on Tuesday, November 10. Guardsman in Tennessee have been supplementing local and state health departments conducting the tests around the state.
National Guard Sgt. Aaron Brummett tests residents of the Barry Towers in downtown Memphis for Covid-19 on Tuesday, November 10. Guardsman in Tennessee have been supplementing local and state health departments conducting the tests around the state. Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal/USA Today Network

The state of Tennessee will launch a surge testing effort on Nov. 23 ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, health officials said during their weekly Covid-19 briefing.  

Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said the idea is to extend hours at testing facilities and turn results around in 48 hours, so residents know their status going into the holiday. 

Gov. Bill Lee urged residents to think about how they carry on in their everyday lives. 

“Make good common-sense decisions about this pandemic that spreads with close contact with people,” he said.

Lee said that Thanksgiving will not be the same for his family this year. Usually the extended family would usually gather at his mother’s farm, but this year he encouraged Tennesseans to make this a “season of common sense” urging that personal responsibility is important. 

The state reported an increase of at least 1,841 new cases and 72 new deaths on Tuesday. Currently there are approximately 1,929 people hospitalized in the state.  

Note: These numbers were released by the Tennessee Department of Health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

4:43 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

More Americans are now willing to get a vaccine for Covid-19, polling finds

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

More Americans are now willing to take a vaccine for Covid-19 – even before Pfizer and Moderna made their vaccine announcements – primarily because of a jump in Democrat willingness, a new Gallup poll found.

The poll, which was conducted between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1, found that 58% of Americans said they would now be willing to take a Covid-19 vaccine. This is up from a low of 50% in September.

The number of people who said that they would not get a vaccine – 42% – is down from 50% in September, but still shows the challenges ahead when it comes to vaccine compliance.

The largest increase in willingness came from Democrats: 69%, compared with 53% in September.

People ages 45 to 64 also had a significant increase, from 36% in September to 49%, although they are still the age group least likely to say they would get a vaccine.

Women and people without college degrees also had 10 point increases in willingness – women going from 44% to 54% and those without college degrees from 45% to 55%.

For Americans who said that they would not get a vaccine, their reasoning included the rushed development timeline (37%), wanting to confirm the vaccine is safe (26%), not trusting vaccines in general (12%), and wanting to wait and see how effective a vaccine will be (10%). An additional 15% gave other reasons, which included the view that the vaccine isn’t necessary, and politicization of a vaccine potentially comprising its safety. 

4:27 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

FDA needs to be more clear when it authorizes coronavirus vaccines and treatments, report says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

The US Food and Drug Administration needs to be clearer and more consistent when it gives emergency use authorization to coronavirus treatments and vaccines, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday.

The GAO reviewed the entire federal government effort to develop coronavirus vaccines and treatments, and came away with one main message: The FDA needs to do a better job of explaining and justifying its decisions. 

“FDA officials and stakeholder groups have noted that, if there is public concern that an EUA will be issued for a vaccine with less certainty of effectiveness than is required to license a vaccine, it may result in the public being hesitant about getting the vaccine, affecting vaccine uptake,” the GAO, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, said in the report.

“FDA should identify ways to uniformly disclose to the public the information from its scientific review of safety and effectiveness data when issuing EUAs for therapeutics and vaccines. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but said it shared GAO's goal of transparency and would explore approaches to achieve this goal,” the GAO said.

The FDA has not yet been asked to issue an EUA for any vaccine, but at least two companies – Moderna and Pfizer – are expected to apply within days. The FDA has promised a thorough review but the GAO said the agency’s record on granting EUAs to treatment for coronavirus showed it had not always been clear or consistent.

But the FDA appeared to have taken the GAO recommendation on board.

“I am announcing today that our drug and biological product centers intend, to the extent appropriate and permitted by law, to publicly post their reviews of the scientific data and information supporting the issuance, revision or revocation of EUAs for all drug and biological products, including vaccines, as part of our COVID-19 response,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a statement also released on Tuesday.

Emergency use authorization is a quicker way to get a medical product on the market in a health emergency than the traditional approval process, which can take weeks or months. EUAs are usually time limited and based on less data than full approvals. While the GAO did not accuse the FDA of cutting corners on some of its coronavirus EUAs, it said the FDA could have better explained its decisions.

Some background: The FDA authorized the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine – and later revoked that EUA – as well as convalescent plasma taken from coronavirus survivors, the antiviral drug remdesivir, and Eli Lilly and Co’s monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab.

4:22 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Stocks close lower Tuesday

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe 

Mark Lennihan/AP
Mark Lennihan/AP

Wall Street reversed course on Tuesday, with stocks pulling back one day after reaching new record highs.

Stocks soared Monday after early results from Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine trial indicated its vaccine is highly effective, giving investors plenty of opportunity to take some profits.

Here's how things looked at closing:

  • The Dow closed 0.6%, or 167 points, lower.
  • The S&P 500 ended down 0.5%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.2% lower.

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.