November 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Sebastian Shukla and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, November 21, 2020
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1:32 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

US reports more than 187,000 new Covid-19 cases in highest single day surge

From CNN's Tina Burnside 

The United States reported 187,833 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, the highest one-day total since the pandemic began.

The previous daily high was on November 13, with 177,244 cases.

A further 2,015 virus-related fatalities were also reported Thursday.

At least 11,715,316 Covid-19 cases, including 252,535 deaths, have now been reported nationwide.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

Background: The US is seeing the fastest spread yet of the coronavirus, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in its first public briefing in four months on Thursday. Earlier Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. But other members of the task force said they would not support a nationwide lockdown.

Read more about the virus' spread in the US:

1:07 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Fauci confident the US CDC can get people vaccinated amid delay in transition of power

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday, November 19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday, November 19. Susan Walsh/AP

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention knows how to get people vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday.

The infectious diseases expert said he’s confident that the agency can get Americans vaccinated once a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, even if the presidential transition of power hasn’t started.

The CDC vaccinates 80 million people a year, Fauci said.

“So, the idea that this is the first time it's being done, the first time you're going to get 300 million, but this is a situation where the CDC does this every year,” he said. 

Fauci, who has been part of five transitions of presidential power over his 36 years as a federal scientist, wouldn’t talk directly about President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden and whether that would impact potential coronavirus vaccinations.

“Transitions are obviously important,” he said. “You do better with transitions. I've been through them and I know.”

Fauci likens presidential transitions to a relay race. 

“When you're running in a relay race, you have the baton, you give it to somebody who's not standing still. You give it to somebody that's actually starting to run. That makes the smooth transition,” he said.

“Of course, that's better than not doing it that way.”

12:40 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

India surpasses 9 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

India reached 9 million coronavirus cases Friday after reporting 45,882 new infections in the past 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The total number of reported cases in the country now stands at 9,004,365, with 132,162 people dying from the virus.

India, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has the second highest number of virus cases in the world, behind the United States.

Despite reaching the bleak milestone, India has seen a steady decline in the number of reported infections over the past few weeks.

It took India 23 days to go from 8 million recorded cases to the 9 million tally. Whereas it took 18 days to reach 7 million and 11 days to top 8 million, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Health Ministry.

More than 129.5 million tests had been conducted in the country as of Thursday, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Cases are surging in the capital: On Thursday Delhi passed 500,000 Covid-19 cases, when it recorded 7,546 new infections.

The Delhi government has reissued restrictions on social gatherings and increased fines for people who leave their homes without wearing a mask.

In a statement Thursday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that his administration was working to ensure medical infrastructure could cope with the rise in cases.

The capital currently has reported a total of 510,630 Covid-19 cases and 8,041 deaths.

12:20 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Fauci is confident in preliminary data of the two potential Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is confident about the two potential Covid-19 vaccine candidates that could be ready for use by next month.

“I've seen the numbers. They're going to hold,” Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines showed a 95% efficacy rate in clinical trials.

“Those numbers are not going to change,” he said. “The issue is how long does the immunity last. How long did protection last? We don't know that right now but we know it works.”

Vaccine maker Pfizer has reported the results from its Phase 3 trial and its partner, Germany’s BioNTech, said the companies will file for Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization on Friday.

“We know also that it prevents severe disease,” Fauci said. “If you look at the severe disease in the Pfizer study, the severe disease was one in the vaccine group, and nine in the placebo group. In the Moderna study it was zero in the vaccine group, 11 in the placebo group."

Fauci said it was clear that the vaccine "prevents severe disease and it prevents symptomatic disease. Whether or not it prevents infection we're going to find out."

But he said both did well enough. “I'll take a vaccine that prevents people from getting seriously ill any day of the year,” he said.

The impact of a vaccine that can prevent somebody from getting ill and that can prevent somebody from getting seriously ill -- that’s huge," he said.
12:06 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine front is looking very promising, Bill Gates says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

As the coronavirus resurgence causes a steep increase in daily deaths and infection rates across the United States, Bill Gates is banking on a coronavirus vaccine to end the pandemic.

“We’ll look back and wish that we had done more before the epidemic hit and done a better job during the epidemic,” Gates, the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“The only good news is that the private sector innovation is going to come along with better therapeutics and the vaccine,” he said. 

Over the next 16 months we need to do the right things and then the vaccine coverage will get us out of the mess,” Gates added.

The US topped more than 185,000 daily Covid-19 cases on Thursday, its highest one-day total. The death toll has surpassed 252,000.

“It’s an incredible tragedy,” Gates said.

“In fact, it could have been even worse if the pathogen had been even more fatal.”

9:58 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

South Australia to lift 6-day lockdown early after person lied to contact tracing authorities

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

South Australia will lift its six-day lockdown on Saturday -- a few days before it originally planned to -- after health authorities found that a person lied to contact tracing officials.

"SA health contact tracers found that one of the close contacts linked to the Woodville Pizza Bar deliberately misled the contact tracing team," South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said at a news conference Friday. "We now know that they lied."

Marshall said the state, home to more than 1.7 million people, will lift the strict "circuit breaker" restrictions announced earlier this week sooner than advised.

As of midnight Saturday, the stay-at-home order will be repealed, and South Australians will be permitted to exercise outdoors and go back to previous restrictions. 

What happened: The person who misled authorities claimed they bought a pizza from the Woodville Pizza Bar, which authorities identified as a potential hotspot earlier this week.

But the person was actually an employee and had been working there for some time, South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.

Stevens added that they would not have gone into lockdown had the person told the truth, and authorities are now working to identify and locate another group of the employee's associates.

Officials defend lockdown decision: The premier and police commissioner defended the decision to go into lockdown and said it was the right move at the time based on the information they had. The person who lied will not be fined or penalized, Stevens added.

"This has had a massive impact on our community," Stevens said. "People's lives have been upended as a result of information that lead us to a course of action that now was not warranted in the circumstances. We're now taking action to amend that."

11:17 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

More than 470,000 Americans will die from coronavirus by March, experts forecast

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The coronavirus pandemic is getting so bad, so quickly, across the United States that an influential academic modeling group has hiked its forecast of deaths considerably.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine now predicts 471,000 people will die from Covid-19 by March 1.

That’s up from its forecast of 438,941 just a week ago.

"The pace of increase is faster than we expected, leading us to revise upward our forecast of deaths by March 1 to 471,000," the IHME said in its new report.

The group said their forecast "assumes that 40 states would reimpose social distancing mandates as the daily death rate exceeds 8 per million."

If states do not do this, the "death toll could reach 658,000 by March 1,” they added. 

“Hospital systems in most states will be under severe stress during December and January even in our reference scenario. Increasing mask use to 95% can save 65,000 lives by March 1," the institute said.

This increased death forecast is even taking into account that the US has improved the infection-fatality ratio with better treatments.

“Our analysis suggests that after controlling for age, sex, comorbidities, and disease severity at admission, the hospital-fatality rate has declined by about 30% since March/April,” it said. Obesity is a major factor in the fatality rate, it said.

10:03 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Japan records another daily high of Covid-19 cases but government says no state of emergency needed

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan reported its highest number of daily Covid-19 cases for the second consecutive day, with 2,397 infections on Thursday, according to the country's Health Ministry.

There were 21 deaths also reported, the Health Ministry said.

Despite the continued spike, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said imposing a state of emergency is not necessary.

"We are not in the situation to issue the state of emergency now. I understand the medical experts share the view," Kato said at a news conference on Friday.

Kato added that the weekly infection average has doubled in the past two weeks and said the government needs to be at maximum alert.

"We would like to pursue the economic and social activities while taking thorough implementation of basic prevention measures," the secretary said.

The total number of virus cases nationwide now stands at 125,979 and 1,956 deaths.

Rising cases: Tokyo, Osaka and six other prefectures also posted record high numbers from Thursday. 

Tokyo reported 534 new cases Thursday -- surpassing the 500 mark for the first time. Osaka reported 338 new cases.

9:37 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Pfizer’s potential Covid-19 vaccine is a "medical home run -- maybe a Grand Slam," says FDA commissioner 

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

The data Pfizer and BioNTech have released so far on their Covid-19 vaccine candidate “are really exciting and give us great hope,” US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Thursday.

“It’s the equivalent of a medical home run, maybe a Grand Slam, who knows, but really impressive from what we’ve heard so far,” Hahn told NBC News.

The companies said this week the data from the clinical trials show the potential coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective in preventing disease and that they plan to file for an emergency use authorization from the FDA on Friday.

Hahn said the agency needs to see the raw data on the vaccine.

“So what will be submitted to us is raw data around the clinical trial that would support a claim for safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, which of course is our primary responsibility here, with an emergency use authorization or an outright approval,” he said.

That’s not the only thing the agency reviews.

“We'll also be looking at manufacturing data because the other thing we need to ensure is that every vaccine that comes off the manufacturing line has the same high quality and represents the vaccine that was part of the study,” Hahn noted.

After the FDA receives the application, Hahn said the agency will set a date for a meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC. A source told CNN this week the date had already been set, for December 8, 9 and 10. But Hahn said a date has not yet been set. 

Once the application is submitted to the FDA, agency scientists review it and come to their own conclusions, Hahn said.