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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3:41 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.

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

Ohio issues statewide curfew starting Thursday

From CNN's Kay Jones

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a statewide curfew today to help combat the spread of Covid-19 in the state.  

Starting Thursday, the curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will last for 21 days. It includes closing all retail establishments and asking everyone to be home by 10 p.m.

"I'm asking, in addition to the curfew itself, I'm asking each Ohioan every day to do at least one thing that reduces your contact with others," DeWine said. 

Hospitalizations throughout the state have increased over the past month.

The governor went on to describe the increase, saying that 1,000 people were hospitalized with the virus on Oct. 13. That number increased to 3,000 by Nov. 12. He said the number of hospitalizations now stands at 3,648. 

The number of patients in intensive care units also increased in the past month from 280 to 900, DeWine said. 

The Ohio Department of Health has reported a total of 312,443 coronavirus cases since March.  

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s public health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

3:47 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

North Dakota senator says he doesn't regret his state not issuing mask mandate sooner as cases increase

​​From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer defended North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and said he doesn't have any regrets about his home state not acting sooner to institute mask mandates, adding that "North Dakotans are free people who love freedom."

North Dakota remains the state with the most cases per 100,000 population, followed by South Dakota, according to recent state reports from the White House coronavirus task force. 

On Friday, Burgum announced a new measure requiring face coverings in indoor businesses and indoor public settings as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn't possible.

Asked Tuesday if he has regrets this wasn't done earlier, Cramer said, "No, no."

"If there's any regret it's that we're at the point now where we're having to have a mask mandate at a time when it's not even as bad as it was not that long ago. So, no, the governor I think has used all of the information at his disposal to make the right decisions along the way," Cramer said, adding that the governor has evaluated other states' approaches to managing the virus, and "there doesn't seem to be any two places that are exactly the same."

He stressed that his concern lies mostly with the economy and the effect that new restrictions might have on North Dakotans' livelihoods.  

"I am hearing from dozens and dozens of restaurant owners, motel, hotel owners that are very concerned about their survival. So, that's as big, if not a bigger concern for me, is the loss of jobs, the loss of businesses and small businesses and loss of an economy that's going to be hard to rebuild if we don't reopen it in an appropriate manner," Cramer said.

2:09 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Phoenix mayor calls for a statewide mask mandate

From CNN’s Konstantin Toropin

Phoenix, Arizona, Mayor Kate Gallego has asked Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to issue a statewide mask mandate, she tweeted today. 

Arizona is one of an ever-shrinking number of states without a statewide mask mandate. Ducey, however, has allowed individual communities to mandate mask wear. Scottsdale was the first to make masks mandatory starting on June 19. Other major municipalities with requirements include Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

Arizona, like almost every other state in the country, has seen a rise in Covid-19 cases in the last few weeks. The state has reported more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases on seven different days in the last two weeks, the state’s Covid-19 dashboard showed.

The last time Arizona reported more than 3,000 new Covid-19 cases was July 31 and the highest ever daily new case count was 4,877 set on July 1.

Arizona has reported at least 279,896 cases of Covid-19 and 6,312 deaths since the pandemic began.

2:00 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Vaccines won't work unless enough people get them, Fauci says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Vaccines do not work unless enough people get them, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. 

Vaccine uptake will determine whether the country is free of the pandemic by next fall. 

“Whenever you talk about vaccines, there are two elements of it,” Fauci said during a New York Times DealBook virtual seminar.  

  • The first is the efficacy of the vaccines. Two of the candidates that are involved with Operation Warp Speed have had “striking results, I mean more than 90% efficacy for one, 94.5% efficacy four another, that’s a huge advance, I don’t think you can have any doubt about that," Fauci said.
  • Very closely connected to the efficacy though, he said, is how many people get the vaccine. 

There is a challenge ahead, he said, due to hesitancy around getting vaccinated. Outreach needs to be done to make sure that the overwhelming majority of Americans get vaccinated, Fauci said, “because if we have an effective vaccine and 50% of the people don’t take it, you still have a considerable public health challenge.” 

It takes “a blanket of protection” to stop an outbreak, Fauci said. “So, you’re asking me what things are going to be like in the fall, I can tell you, that really depends on whether or not we get the majority of the people, the overwhelming majority of the people, vaccinated.” 

And a vaccine won’t mean an end to other measures, such as hand-washing, mask use and social distancing. 

“There will always be an element of need to adhere to public health measures. The degree of stringency of it is going to depend upon the level of infection in the community,” he said.