November 18 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Mike Hayes, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020
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4:34 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

New York City mayor will announce new Covid-19 public school reopening standards later this week

From CNN's Rob Frehse 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as he welcomed elementary school students back to the city's public schools for in-person learning on September 29, 2020 in New York City. 
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as he welcomed elementary school students back to the city's public schools for in-person learning on September 29, 2020 in New York City.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New Covid-19 standards for reopening New York City public schools will be announced later this week, but will have a heavy emphasis on testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

In terms of when schools will reopen, de Blasio said, "the week after Thanksgiving is the earliest but I’m not yet able to say that will be then or a point after but we have real work to do, which I think we can do quickly, to finish those standards and then put together the action plan to make them come to pass."

De Blasio added: "Again, heavy emphasis on testing, we are going to be deploying a lot of our testing capacity toward the schools under this new model, even much more than we’ve done previously.”

4:29 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Stocks close lower as coronavirus infections rise

From CNN's Anneken S. Tappe

A person walks past the New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street on November 16, 2020.
A person walks past the New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street on November 16, 2020. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

US stocks closed lower on Wednesday after spending most of the session in the red.

Pfizer’s announcement that its Covid-19 vaccine is 95% effective did little to soothe the market, as the pandemic continues to rage on, and infection numbers are on the rise.

Here's how the market closed today:

  • The Dow finished 1.2%, or 345 points, lower.
  • The S&P 500 also fell 1.2%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite closed down 0.8%.

4:29 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

New York governor says he’d prefer to "keep schools open" but understands decision to close

From CNN’s Sonia Moghe

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference in September.
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference in September. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reacted to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio closing the city’s schools on a radio interview on WAMC, saying the mayor was “within his prerogative” but that he would have preferred to keep schools open. 

On one hand, he says de Blasio was “totally within his prerogative” for closing the schools because he set a 3% Covid-19 city positivity rate as a threshold for closing schools.

“Mayor de Blasio set 3%. He hit 3% today. He closed the schools at 3% — that is totally within his prerogative," Cuomo said.

Cuomo emphasized that he doesn’t feel de Blasio closing schools was a mistake. But he says his preference would have been to keep schools open. 

“Schools right now are safer than kids on the street in a high-infection community,” Cuomo said. “The schools often have a lower infection rate than the surrounding community. So, my preference is always to keep the schools open, unless there was a high infection rate -- which there’s not.”

Cuomo said at the time de Blasio set the 3% infection rate as a threshold for closing schools, it seemed “reasonable.” But now, he advises New York City to re-confer with parents and adjust the threshold. 

“When he set the 3 (percent positivity rate threshold) it sounded fine,” Cuomo said. “In retrospect, it turned out that it was low.”

3:49 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Closure of New York City schools is a setback but the system will overcome, education official says

The closure of New York City public schools is a setback, but one the system will overcome, Chancellor of New York City Department of Education Richard Carranza announce Wednesday afternoon.

“This is not a happy day for us in the Department of Education, it’s been an eventful and very challenging year, in so many ways,” Carranza said. 

The school system, however, has done a remarkable job at keeping the school positivity rate at .19%, Carranza added, noting this is a temporary closure.

School is still in session, he said, students are just pivoting to remote instruction.

“We feel a deep sense of commitment to making sure we can open for in-person learning again, as soon as it is physically safe to do so,” Carranza said.

2:49 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

NYC schools head: We have reached the point "that requires all students to transition to remote learning"

New York City School Chancellor Richard Carranza sent a letter to families and students that confirms all school buildings will be closed beginning tomorrow, and students will transition to remote learning. 

CNN has obtained a copy of the letter.

“Given recent increases in transmission, we have reached a point in our City’s infection rate that requires all students to transition to remote learning," Carranza said.

Regarding free meals for students and families, the chancellor’s letter indicated all families and students can continue to go to any school building between 9 a.m. and noon ET to pick up three free grab-and-go meals. 

“We have been the only major school district in the nation to reopen our buildings. The benefit to hundreds of thousands of students is incredible, as school communities have reconnected in person for learning, growing, and supporting one another," Carranza added.

3:12 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

New York City public schools will close tomorrow as coronavirus cases rise

From CNN's Athena Jones

An empty hallway is seen at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on March 17 in New York City.
An empty hallway is seen at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on March 17 in New York City. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that schools will be closed tomorrow.

Here is the tweet he sent moments ago:

2:20 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Connecticut governor fears new Covid-19 wave as students return for Thanksgiving

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Gov. Ned Lamont speaks to reporters on August 7 in Westport, Connecticut.
Gov. Ned Lamont speaks to reporters on August 7 in Westport, Connecticut. John Minchillo/AP

Connecticut's Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday urged caution, saying he is very concerned students returning from college for Thanksgiving might usher a new wave of coronavirus into his state.

"I'll tell you what I'm really nervous about... is Thanksgiving," Lamont told CNN's John King this afternoon. "We're going to have tens of thousands of kids coming back to our region from colleges in states where they have an infection rate... that could be 10 times ours." 

Lamont urged anyone returning to the Constitution State for the holidays to take proper precautions both before boarding flights and once they arrive. 

"Please test and quarantine before you get on that plane and test again when you get here so you keep your families safe and communities safe," he said. 

Lamont, who is is currently directing his state's Covid-19 response from quarantine after one of his top aide tested positive for the virus, added he believes another wave of the virus might be inevitable, regardless of the precautions they take. 

"I see the black cloud of the Covid infections coming over from the upper Midwest, now into Pennsylvania, western New York," he said. "I don't think we're going to be spared. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Watch the moment:

1:16 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Health secretary says US will have 40 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine available by end of December

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

The United States plans to have about 40 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine available to distribute by the end of the year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a briefing on Wednesday.

The companies Pfizer and Moderna this week both announced that their vaccine candidates were about 95% effective in Phase 3 trials. Pfizer on Wednesday said final Phase 3 data confirmed the efficacy and it’s planning to apply for emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

The FDA must authorize any vaccine, but doses have already been manufactured in the hope that one or more would get authorization.

"By the end of December, we expect to have about 40 million doses of these two vaccines available for distribution pending FDA authorization — enough to vaccinate about 20 million of our most vulnerable Americans," Azar said. "And production of course would continue to ramp up after that."

1:12 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Second straight week of double-digit college football games called off due to Covid-19

From CNN’s Dan Kamal

There are now 10 college football games that have had to be postponed or canceled this week due to Covid-19. It’s the second straight week college football has lost double-digit games to its schedule.

On Wednesday, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) announced that Saturday’s games featuring Houston at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Navy at University of South Florida (USF) have been postponed due to Covid-19.

In a statement Wednesday, USF vice president of athletics Michael Kelly said, “Our student-athletes are continuing to work hard with energy and enthusiasm and look forward to the opportunity to compete and get better each week."

“However, all our decisions start with the health and safety of our student-athletes as our first priority,” Kelly added, “And we reached a point this week where the decision was clear that it was in their best interest to postpone this week’s game.”

According to AAC officials, the conference will work with all four schools involved on potential dates to reschedule the games.

Here are the other games affected so far this week:

  • Ohio at Miami (Ohio) — Canceled
  • UAB at UTEP – Canceled
  • Ohio Ole Miss at No. 5 Texas A&M — Postponed
  • Georgia Tech at No. 12 Miami — Postponed
  • Charlotte at No. 15 Marshall — Postponed
  • Arizona State at Colorado — Canceled
  • UL Monroe at Louisiana Tech — Canceled
  • Wake Forest at Duke - Postponed