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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6:01 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

US surpasses 250,000 reported deaths from Covid-19

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Gisela Crespo

There have been at least 250,029 reported deaths from Covid-19 in the US since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

There have been at least 11,485,176 total coronavirus cases in the US, university data showed.

Johns Hopkins recorded the first death from Covid-19 on Feb. 29 in Washington state. Two earlier deaths in California were posthumously confirmed to be from Covid-19 later in the spring.

6:33 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

US military reported record high of Covid-19 cases on Tuesday

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US military reported a record high number of Covid-19 cases in one day, with 1,314 new cases on Tuesday, according to a US defense official familiar with the latest statistics from the Defense Department.

There are currently about 25,000 cases in the ranks and another 44,390 service members have recovered from coronavirus, according to the Pentagon. The increase in military cases has been taking place over the last few weeks as cases have also increased in the general population.

A US defense official told CNN that the US military has a positivity rate of 6.8%, compared to a 9.98% positivity rate in the civilian population. The military has claimed since the beginning of the pandemic that it can maintain a lower positivity rate because the military has a younger, healthier population without the co-morbidities. It also can mandate restrictions in a way the civilian world can’t.  

Some context: This comes as several military bases across the country have had to once again tighten health measures to protect the force and military families.

In the Air Force, since Nov. 10, some 10 installations have instituted stronger measures known as Health Protection Condition Level Charlie just one step below the most stringent level.

While commanders can make detailed decisions about their bases, under this Charlie measure, schools, daycare and community activities may be canceled, there will be travel restrictions and more personnel may be ordered to work from home. In addition, family activities may be restricted to homes for a prolonged period of time. 

The impact is being felt at installations across the country and around the world.             

5:26 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

14 college football games called off due to Covid-19 this week

From CNN’s Jacob Lev

There are now 14 college football games that have been canceled or postponed this week due to Covid-19.

It's the second straight week college football has lost double-digit games on its schedule. The latest games to be called off are Texas at Kansas and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), at Colorado State.

The University of Kansas announced today that Saturday's game against the University of Texas has been rescheduled to Dec. 12 due to Kansas' "inability to meet to meet the minimum position requirements," which were established by the Big 12 conference.

Before the season, the Big 12 conference announced, "football cancellation thresholds," where the minimum number of players required to play in a game was 53 with other minimum requirements for specific position groups.

The affected position group in the Kansas program has a combination of injuries and contact tracing. 

The school said in a statement that since Nov. 8, the team has performed 825 Covid-19 tests, with five returning positive. 

The Jayhawks next scheduled game is on Nov. 28 against Texas Christian University in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Mountain West Conference (MWC) also announced on Wednesday that UNLV will not travel to Colorado State for Saturday's game due to positive cases within the UNLV program.

“Over the past six weeks, more than 2,600 tests have been administered to UNLV football student-athletes, coaches, and staff with a positivity rate of less than 0.6 percent," UNLV director of athletics Desiree Reed-Francois said. "Unfortunately, with a surge in cases in the Las Vegas community and despite the efforts of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff to adhere to health and safety protocols, the decision to not play this weekend is in the best health and safety interests of all involved.”

The 14 college football games affected this week so far are:

  • Ohio at Miami University (Ohio)— Canceled
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham at University of Texas at El Paso – Canceled
  • 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
  • University of Louisiana Monroe at Louisiana Tech — Canceled
  • Wake Forest at Duke — Postponed
  • Navy at South Florida — Postponed
  • Houston at Southern Methodist University — Postponed
  • Central Arkansas at Louisiana-Lafayette — Canceled
  • Utah State at Wyoming — Canceled
  • Texas at Kansas — Postponed
  • UNLV at Colorado State — Postponed
4:48 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

2 more House members say they've tested positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Kristin Wilson, Daniella Diaz and Clare Fortinsky

Rep. Dan Newhouse and Rep. Doug Lamborn.
Rep. Dan Newhouse and Rep. Doug Lamborn. Tom Williams, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Two more House members have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing CNN's tally of lawmakers who have been Covid-19 positive to 34. 

So far, 26 House members and eight senators have tested positive for the virus.

The latest are Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, and Dan Newhouse of Washington state.

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.