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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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

1:07 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Millions of children have missed routine vaccinations during the pandemic, insurance data shows

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A health worker prepares a vaccine during the Saban Community Clinic Vaccine Drive Up for LA Children on August 12 in Los Angeles, California.
A health worker prepares a vaccine during the Saban Community Clinic Vaccine Drive Up for LA Children on August 12 in Los Angeles, California. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Millions of children have missed routine vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that is putting the US at risk from diseases like measles, whooping cough and polio, according to new data from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released Wednesday.

Children are on track to miss an estimated 9 million doses of vaccine in 2020, an up to 26% decrease compared to 2019, according to the association’s survey of medical claims.

Forty percent of parents and legal guardians said the pandemic made them miss routine vaccinations for their children. The majority of these happened during two time periods: March through May and August.

"The U.S. is on the precipice of a severe immunization crisis among children," said Dr. Vincent Nelson, chief medical officer at BCBSA. "The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly interrupted adherence to vaccination schedules, and the possibility that preventable diseases, like polio, could become a threat to public health once again is particularly concerning."

The measles vaccine rate is down 26% from 2019, whooping cough immunizations are down 26% and polio vaccination is down 16%, the release said.

“The new BCBSA vaccine data, based on medical claims from millions of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members, provides clear evidence that the United States is at risk of widespread outbreaks of preventable disease,” the group said in a statement. “If current trends continue, the U.S. would fall dangerously below the vaccination levels for measles and whooping cough that the CDC says are needed to protect community health.”

 The analysis of member claims data looked at vaccine doses delivered from January to September 2020 and compared that with the same period in 2019.

12:08 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Delta will keep blocking middle seats through March

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Empty seats are seen on a Delta aircraft at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22 in Arlington, Virginia
Empty seats are seen on a Delta aircraft at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22 in Arlington, Virginia Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines said on Wednesday it will keep middle seats empty on its flights through next March, an extension of the social distancing policy it put in place at the start of the pandemic. 

Delta maintains it is the only US airline to keep blocking middle seats on its flights.

The move comes as other airlines are ending similar policies, gearing up for a potential onslaught of air travelers during the busy holiday rush. 

Last week, JetBlue announced it will start to phase out capping capacity on its flights — currently 70% — and fill every seat starting Jan. 8. Southwest Airlines said in September it will fill every seat after Nov. 30, following the Thanksgiving travel period. American Airlines and United Airlines have been selling every seat on their flights since the summer.

Airlines say they feel empowered by new research from Harvard University, the Department of Defense, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers that claims the transmission rates of coronavirus through the filtered air of an airliner is low, so long as all passengers wear masks. 

Last week, Delta announced that a total of 550 people have been put on Delta’s no-fly list for refusing to wear a mask.

12:23 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

BioNTech is working on a vaccine formula that can be shipped at room temperature

From CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, Claudia Otto and Vasco Cotovio

BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin speaks with CNN on Wednesday, November 18.
BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin speaks with CNN on Wednesday, November 18. CNN

The German biotech company BioNTech is working on a formula for its vaccine that would allow it to be shipped at room temperature, CEO Uğur Şahin told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. 

“We are working on formulation which could allow us to ship the vaccine even maybe at room temperature and this type of development is happening in parallel,” Sahin said. 

Concerns were raised that it would be difficult to distribute the vaccine BioNTech is working on with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer because it needs to be stored at about minus 75 degrees Celsius, which is about 50 degrees colder than any vaccine currently used in the United States. 

Doctors' offices, pharmacies and state labs don't have freezers that go nearly that low but Sahin is now saying that is a temporary issue. 

“Since the development was so fast, we were not able to work out better, more stable conditions,” he said. “We believe that in the second half of 2020 we will have come up with a formulation which is comparable to any other type of vaccine.”


11:12 a.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Pfizer and BioNtech will file for emergency use of Covid-19 vaccine on Friday

A patient participates in Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine on May 4 in Baltimore, Maryland.
A patient participates in Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine on May 4 in Baltimore, Maryland. University of Maryland School of Medicine/AP

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which has been working on a Covid-19 vaccine with US Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, will file paperwork for the emergency use of its vaccine in the United States on Friday, the company CEO, Uğur Şahin told CNN in an interview on Wednesday. 

Earlier today, Pfizer announced that a final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of its coronavirus vaccine shows it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta explains Pfizer's 95% effectiveness rate:

9:41 a.m. ET, November 18, 2020

US stock market opens mixed following more good vaccine news

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe 

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Wall Street started mixed on Wednesday, following more good news on the vaccine front. 

Pfizer announced its Covid-19 vaccine was 95% effective in preventing infection, according to a final analysis of its Phase 3 trial.

The Dow opened higher, gaining 0.2%, or 61 points. The S&P 500 was flat at the opening bell. Both indexes closed in the red in the prior session, but hit new record highs on Monday. 

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also opened flat.

8:56 a.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Coronavirus immunity in some people may last more than six months, early research suggests

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Immunity to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can last for at least six months, and possibly much longer, perhaps even years, when all components of the body's immune memory are taken into consideration, early research suggests.

The pre-print paper, published on Monday to the online server, appears to contradict previous research that has found immunity to the novel coronavirus wanes over time based on measurements of antibodies, or protein components of the immune system. 

Yet the new study — which has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal — involves analyzing multiple compartments of immune memory over time: antibodies, B cells and T cells, among other features of immune memory.

About the study: The study included 185 adults, ages 19 to 81, in the United States who had recovered from Covid-19. Most of the adults had mild disease. 

The researchers – from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, University of California, San Diego, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai – analyzed blood samples from the adults, collected at various points following the onset of symptoms, with some collected more than six months later.

In the blood samples, the researchers examined components of immune memory. They found that antibodies "were durable" with only "modest declines" emerging at six to eight months, but noted that there was about a 200-fold range in the level of antibody responses among the adults. 

The researchers also found that memory B cells were detected in almost all Covid-19 cases, and there appeared to be an increase in memory B cells over time. "B cell memory to some other infections has been observed to be long-lived, including 60+ years after smallpox vaccination, or 90+ years after infection with influenza," the researchers wrote in their study.

The researchers identified two types of T cells and their data suggest that "T cell memory might reach a more stable plateau, or slower decay phase, later than the first 6 months post-infection," they wrote. 

Remember: The study comes with limitations, including that more research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a larger group of people across more time points.

12:57 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Here's the latest on the coronavirus pandemic across Europe

From CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Katharina Krebs, Sharon Braithwaite and Antonia Mortensen

A person walks in Krakow's nearly empty main square, during the Covid-19 crisis in Poland, on November 16.
A person walks in Krakow's nearly empty main square, during the Covid-19 crisis in Poland, on November 16. Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Coronavirus is continuing to spread in Europe. While World Health Organization data today showed that Europe has recorded a 10% decline in Covid-19 cases over the past week "for the first time in over three months," deaths continued to increase.

Deaths in Europe jumped by 18% during the past week in comparison to the previous one.

Here's a look at where things stand in some countries across the continent:

  • A mink farming ban in Denmark: Mink farming has been temporarily prohibited until Dec. 31, 2021. During the same period it will also be forbidden to import or export live minks to or from Denmark and between herds in Denmark. This temporary ban is part of an agreement reached between the government and parties supporting the government. The move follows fears that coronavirus mutations can pass between minks and humans. 
  • Record deaths in Poland: Poland recorded 603 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday – a new daily record – bringing the total death toll to 11,451, according to state news agency PAP. “112 people died due to COVID-19, while 491 people died due to the coexistence of COVID-19 with other diseases,” the Health Ministry said in a tweet.
  • Protests over restrictions in Germany: An anti-corona measures demonstration is taking place in central Berlin. Several thousand demonstrators assembled near the parliamentary district, according to a Berlin police spokesman. Police are using water cannons at the demonstration, television pictures show. 
  • Christmas plans in the United Kingdom: UK medical adviser Susan Hopkins said on Wednesday that some sort of Christmas is possible this season — however it requires everyone to abide restriction and get the number of cases as low as possible. Hopkins added that the final decision rests with the government. Hopkins stressed that if mixing during the Christmas were to happen, everyone would have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again. 

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that Poland set a new record for daily Covid-19 deaths.