November 19 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Sebastian Shukla, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 1:28 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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5:30 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Pence says Trump administration doesn't support additional national lockdowns or school closures

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, right, listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, right, listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Susan Walsh/AP

Despite coronavirus cases surging across the country, Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on the Trump administration's policy of not supporting additional national lockdowns or the closure of schools.

“President Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our President, does not support another national lockdown. And we do not support closing schools,” Pence said Thursday, at the first White House coronavirus task force briefing since July. 

“And you’ll hear from Dr. Robert Redfield of the CDC that, actually the CDC never recommended that we close schools at any point this year.”

Pence’s remarks come one day after the New York City public school system, the largest in the country, ended in-person learning until further notice due to the coronavirus positivity rate in the city.

Trump politicized the issue of lockdowns during his failed reelection campaign, repeatedly telling supporters that now President-elect Joe Biden wants to institute another national shutdown. Biden did not say that however, and he reiterated at his own news conference on Thursday that he does not plan on instituting a national shutdown.

“I'll say again, no national shutdown. No national shutdown, because every region, every area, every community can be different,” Biden said, explaining that because the circumstances and infection rates are different throughout the country, custom rules and restrictions would be implemented.

5:16 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Birx asks Americans to remain vigilant as coronavirus infections rise in the US

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Susan Walsh/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx became the first White House coronavirus task force official to speak at a briefing from the podium while wearing a face mask on Thursday. Birx sought to communicate urgency about the current state of the pandemic.

“It’s really a moment that we want to call on every American to increase their vigilance,” Birx said from the podium, wearing a signature silk scarf and light pink mask as she spoke.

Pence, who wore a mask as he walked into the briefing room, removed his face covering to speak. Other task force officials are wearing masks.

Birx strongly pressed the importance of wearing masks as she modeled the behavior.

“It is because of spread that we have asked people to wear masks indoors, and to ask people to wear a mask when among others. But sometimes when we go indoors and we’re with friends and family, we just assume that if you look OK, you are OK. And now we know that over 50% of the individuals, particularly among those under 35, many could be infected and unknowingly spreading the virus,” she said.

Birx later added, “We're asking every American to remain vigilant, to do those things that we have been asking you all to do, to wear a mask, to physically distance, continue your hand hygiene.”

This was Birx’s first appearance in the White House briefing room since joining President Trump and Kayleigh McEnany for a briefing on July 23, where she did not speak.

A third speaker at Thursday’s briefing, Gen. David Sanford, removed his mask to speak. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, who appeared to be wearing two masks, also removed his masks to give remarks.

4:14 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

New Hampshire issues statewide mask mandate

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

A man wearing a protective mask and gloves cycles past the Boardwalk across from the Hampton Beach State Park in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, May 19.
A man wearing a protective mask and gloves cycles past the Boardwalk across from the Hampton Beach State Park in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, May 19. Charles Krupa/AP

A statewide mask mandate will be in place in New Hampshire starting Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday. 

All residents above the age of five will be required to wear a face covering when unable to keep at least six feet of distance in both indoor or outdoor public spaces, according to a release from the governor’s office.

The decision comes as the state has experienced a 100% increase in its hospitalization rate over the past two weeks, the governor said.

More than 70% of New Hampshire’s hospitals and long-term care facilities are experiencing some sort of “staffing crunch,” Sununu said.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, an epidemiologist for the state's Department Health and Human Services, announced 529 new Covid-19 cases and two additional coronavirus-related deaths. That brings the statewide total to 15,749 cases and 504 deaths, according New Hampshire’s Covid-19 dashboard

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.

3:08 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

El Paso's Covid-19 case numbers decline for third day in a row

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos   

Healthcare workers greet incoming vehicles at a drive-in Covid-19 testing site in El Paso, Texas, on November 14.
Healthcare workers greet incoming vehicles at a drive-in Covid-19 testing site in El Paso, Texas, on November 14. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Texas city of El Paso reported 672 new Covid-19 cases Thursday. This marks the third consecutive day of declining cases, according to CNN reporting and data from the city's Covid-19 dashboard.  

The seven-day positivity rate also decreased slightly to 18.78%, according to the dashboard. It was at 19.16% Wednesday. 

The data shows there are currently 1,074 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the city – 315 of those are in the intensive care units. These numbers are down slightly from Wednesday when 325 individuals were in the ICU. 

However, Covid-19 patients are still using a full 50% of total hospital capacity in El Paso.

There were also 19 new deaths reported from the virus, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths in the city to 823.     

Note: These numbers were released by the El Paso City/County health department and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN's database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.    

1:53 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

AstraZeneca delivers 4 million vials of its Covid-19 vaccine to UK government

From Anna Stewart in London

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has delivered four million vials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate to the UK government, with millions more frozen doses ready to be sent, a company spokesperson told CNN.

Earlier Thursday, British researchers reported that the vaccine – which AstraZeneca developed with researchers at the UK’s Oxford University — appears to work safely in older people, generating as strong an immune response in those over the age of 70 as it does in younger people.

1:52 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

All Smithsonian museums will temporarily close in Washington, DC

From CNN’s Pete Muntean, Nicky Robertson and Aileen Graef

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery stands on March 17 in Washington DC.
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery stands on March 17 in Washington DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Smithsonian Institute just announced it will be closing all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo starting Monday. The move is a direct response to the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the Washington, DC, area and the country.

This will be the second time the museums have closed to the public this year. Both the museums and the zoo closed in March and had a limited reopening in September.

The Smithsonian did not announce a planned date to reopen.

A press release issued by the Institute Thursday said, "Visitors who had reserved timed-entry passes to visit at a future date are being contacted directly."

The US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, also announced it would shut its doors on Monday.

2:01 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

There's a coronavirus outbreak on a US Navy warship, official says

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on November 21, 2012.
The guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on November 21, 2012. Diana Quinlan/US Navy

There has been a major coronavirus outbreak aboard a US Navy guided missile destroyer.

The virus has spread to nearly a quarter of the USS Michael Murphy's 300-person crew, according to a US Navy official.

The ship has been in port in Hawaii so there has been limited operational impact due to the outbreak.

The US Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC was first to report the outbreak aboard the ship.

CNN reported on Wednesday that the US military reported a record high number of coronavirus cases on Tuesday with 1,314 new cases, according to Defense Department statistics.

There are currently about 25,000 active Covid-19 cases in the ranks, and another 44,390 service members have recovered from the virus, according to the Pentagon. The number of military cases has grown over the last few weeks as case counts have increased in the general population.

1:28 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

More than 21% of Covid-19 cases in assisted living facilities end in death

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Assisted living facilities have been a hotspot for Covid-19 deaths in this pandemic.

By Oct.15, the proportion of Covid-19 cases that were fatal in these facilities was at least 21%, a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

It is likely higher, but only 39 states track these deaths. For perspective, for the general population, only 2.5% of Covid-19 cases end in death, the CDC noted.

The CDC has been tracking cases in skilled nursing facilities. Those institutions where residents need more care have a federal reporting requirement if they get a Covid-19 case. There is no such requirement for assisted living facilities, where the seniors live more independently, but get some assistance with bathing, housekeeping, and medication management.

From this new CDC data published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers found 22% of all assisted living facilities had one or more Covid-19 cases among the residents or staff.

Residents are at a higher risk for Covid-19 because they live in close proximity with other community members. Their advanced age and underlying conditions put them at a higher risk for a more severe disease.

To prevent the spread of Covid-19 in these facilities, the CDC recommends that each facility identify a point of contact at the local health department so they have a relationship if there is an outbreak. Managers should educate residents, staff, and residents’ families about Covid-19.

They should have a plan for when the facility needs to restrict access for families and staff. The facilities should encourage the use of masks and social distancing, as well as step up infection control and find ways to rapidly identify and respond to cases.

12:50 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Key West will now require masks to be worn outdoors

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Customers wear masks at the Farmers Market in Key West, Florida on September 17.
Customers wear masks at the Farmers Market in Key West, Florida on September 17. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

The city of Key West, Florida, will now require face masks to be worn outside, regardless of social distancing.

The city announced the move in a tweet following a commission meeting on Thursday.  

As of Wednesday, Key West has had 1,382 total Covid-19 cases, Mayor Terri Johnston said during a weekly update on Facebook.  

The island city has a population of 24,565, according to the US Census Bureau.  

"It's [going to] take a collective effort of each and every one of us in order to get our numbers down," Johnston said ahead of Thursday's commission meeting.