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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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

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.”

Watch:

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.