November 12 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Jenni Marsh, Zamira Rahim, Ed Upright, Roya Wolverson and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Updated 12:17 a.m. ET, November 13, 2020
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6:05 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Walgreens, CVS and other chains partner with government to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen, Elizabeth Cohen, Samira Said and Nadia Kounang

People cross the street near a Walgreens store on September 30 in New York City.
People cross the street near a Walgreens store on September 30 in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The US Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday it is partnering with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent independent pharmacies to increase vaccine access in anticipation of a Covid-19 vaccine authorization or approval.

Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger, CVS, Costco, Publix Super Markets Inc. and others have signed onto the agreement as of November 6, HHS said. The pharmacy partnership covers about 60% of pharmacies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

HHS Services Secretary Alex Azar said the agreement will take advantage of this existing private sector infrastructure to get vaccines out to communities as quickly as possible for no out-of-pocket cost.

“The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines,” Azar said in a statement.

Paul Ostrowski, director of distribution for Operation Warp Speed, told CNN that he wanted "to make the distribution of this just as easy as a normal influenza vaccine."

“We're ready to go today, and one has to look no further than their local drugstore today," he said.

The first vaccine expected to receive authorization, made by Pfizer, is different from the flu vaccine – or any other vaccine – in one important way. It has to be stored at minus 75 degrees Celsius, which is 50 degrees colder than any other vaccine in the United States. Doctors’ offices and pharmacies do not have freezers that go nearly that low. 

Pfizer is supplying “thermal shippers” for the vaccine that must be replenished with dry ice. Ostrowski said UPS would provide dry ice reshipments throughout the US upon demand, although he did not say how this would be funded.

“We're not going to send a vaccine to a place that can’t administer it,” said Ostrowski. “We’re going to push those vaccines to places where we know that they can either have storage or we will refill them with dry ice as necessary throughout the process."

He noted that the vaccine can be stored in regular refrigeration for up to five days.

CNN previously reported that in a letter on October 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked states to be ready to receive Pfizer's vaccine by November 15. State officials interviewed by CNN said it was unlikely they could be. 

A review by CNN of the 46 state vaccine plans that are online shows only a few states have detailed plans for maintaining the vaccine's ultra-low temperature storage.  

Ostrowski said strike teams from the CDC were being deployed to make sure states were ready, and that states have been provided access to major pharmacies, “which are very, very good at administering vaccines."

Ostrowski, a retired Army lieutenant general, said that “within 24 hours” of the FDA granting emergency authorization for a vaccine, “our trucks will be rolling.”   

6:19 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

States shatter Covid-19 records as US reports more than 10.5 million cases and 240,000 deaths

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano, Kay Jones, Taylor Romine and Konstantin Toropin

RN Treva Rivers administers a Covid-19 test at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 13.
RN Treva Rivers administers a Covid-19 test at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 13. Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty Images

US states continue to shatter records for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as the country reported more than 10.5 million infections and at least 242,310 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

JHU reported 89,206 new cases and 400 deaths so far today from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

Here are just some of the stark figures:

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania reported its highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases Thursday, with 5,488 new infections and 49 deaths, according to the state's Department of Health.

The statewide total now stands at 248,856 Covid-19 cases and about 13,202 of the total cases are among healthcare workers, according to the release.

The total deaths in the state attributed to Covid-19 stands at 9,194

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 2,080 individuals hospitalized with Covid-19, with 438 of them in intensive care units. Most hospitalized patients are aged 65 or older, and most of the deaths have been among patients 65 or older. 

Utah

The state reported 3,884 new Covid-19 cases Thursday -- a new record that is a significant jump above previous high, its data dashboard shows. Utah also hit record highs in its Covid-19 7-day case average and test positivity percentage.

Utah’s previous record for new Covid-19 cases, 2,989, was set on November 5.

The rise in infections has driven the seven-day new case average to a record 2,738.4 cases. This measure has been climbing fairly steadily since the start of October. Utah’s percentage of positive tests also hit a record 23.21% after surging since October 11.

Greg Bell, the President of the Utah Hospital Association, said the state was running out of intensive care beds and that the state has “in earnest, began transferring patients about 10 days ago” from hospitals at capacity. 

New Jersey

The state hit its highest Covid-19 hospitalization rate since June 4 with 1,827 in hospital. Since Monday, the state has seen 10,472 new cases, which Governor Phil Murphy said was "stark and sobering,"

Murphy announced 3,517 new Covid-19 cases, 18 deaths, and a positivity rate of 12.02%. There are 360 Covid-19 patients in intensive care, the highest rate since June 12. 

Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that if New Jersey continues at this trajectory, it will return to the state it was in back in spring. 

Murphy said holiday gatherings should be limited to immediate family or household. 

In the past week, there have been 15 outbreaks at schools and 46 new Covid-19 infections, which Murphy noted was much lower than he and his staff were expecting.

Wisconsin

Covid-19 is "getting worse everywhere" in the state, said a top health official as Wisconsin reached almost 7,500 new cases on Thursday.

The 7,497 new cases bring the state's total to 293,388, Julie Willems Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said at a news conference. She also announced 58 new deaths bringing the state's total to 2,515

"Covid-19 is everywhere in our state. It is bad everywhere, and it's getting worse everywhere," she said. "It is straining hospitals and people are dying." 

Van Dijk said that only 8% of ICU beds are available statewide and that hospitals are struggling with staffing, partly because staff are sick or quarantining. 

The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,209, Van Dijk said. She said Wisconsin has 1,000 cases per day higher than New York City during the height of the pandemic.

New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a news release Thursday that the state’s positivity rate is 2.95% and 29 more people died from coronavirus in a 24-hour period.

In the state's "micro-cluster" focus zones, the test positivity rate is 4.86%.

The governor said the next few weeks are going to be “key," with Covid raging nationally.

"There is no pre-destined future here. It's a pure consequence of our actions. If we stay New York Tough and don't fall subject to COVID fatigue and we stay smart through the holidays, through Thanksgiving, through Christmas, through Hanukkah, we'll keep it under control,” he said in a statement.

CNN is tracking the spread of US coronavirus cases here:

5:12 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

One in four deaths in France are due to Covid-19

From Eva Tapiero in Paris

French Prime Minister Jean Castex says one in four deaths currently happening in the country are caused by Covid-19. 

“Today in France 1 in 4 deaths is due to the virus” Castex said on Thursday. “France is facing an extremely strong second epidemic wave," he added. Over the past week between 400 and 500 people have died every day, he said.

"It would be irresponsible to lift or lighten lockdown now," Castex continued. “We have decided to keep the rules unchanged for at least the next 15 days." 

"For a week now, we have noted a drop in the number of positive cases," the Prime Minister said about the numbers. “If that trend is confirmed, the peak of the second wave could be reached at the beginning of next week.” 

He added that measures could be eased starting December 1st, emphasizing that those measures would be limited to reopening some shops, and would exclude the reopening of bars and restaurants. “If that trend [of lower numbers] doesn’t confirm next week, we will take further action.” he added. 

Commenting on the increased pressure on the hospital system, Castex said 4,803 patients were currently in intensive care, which is "95% of our usual capacity."

2:52 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

New York City preparing to shut schools down if test-positivity rate continues to increase

From CNN's Sheena Jones

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is preparing to shut down schools if the test-positivity rate continues to increase, he said Thursday at the city’s Covid-19 briefing.

Nearing the threshold: The city is seeing a 2.6% test-positivity rate on a seven-day average. The mayor previously said schools would be closed if the test-positivity rate reached 3%. 

The mayor said the city has seen growth within the test positivity rate, but there was still time to turn the number around. 

De Blasio said if schools shut down, “our hope would be to make it a very brief period of time.”

He reported there are 100 people hospitalized across the city with Covid-19, according to data from Wednesday, and 870 cases of Covid-19 on a seven-day average.

3:45 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Mental health-related ER visits suggest children and teens are at risk, CDC research finds

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

The coronavirus pandemic had a big effect on emergency room visits for children suffering mental health crises, researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

While fewer children and teens were seen in emergency departments for mental health issues during the pandemic, they made up a bigger proportion of ER visits than before – suggesting that problems were serious enough to overcome concerns about visiting hospitals, the researchers said.

The team set out to see if there was evidence of more mental health trauma among children because of the pandemic. They found a 43% decrease the number of mental health–related emergency department visits among children starting in March.

But the proportion of these visits compared to other emergency related visits rose by 44%, they found. 

“This report demonstrates that, whereas the overall number of children’s mental health–related ED visits decreased, the proportion of all ED visits for children’s mental health–related concerns increased, reaching levels substantially higher beginning in late-March to October 2020 than those during the same period during 2019,” they wrote.

“Children’s mental health warranted sufficient concern to visit EDs during a time when nonemergent ED visits were discouraged.” 

The findings “provide initial insight into children’s mental health in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and highlight the importance of continued monitoring of children’s mental health throughout the pandemic, ensuring access to care during public health crises, and improving health coping strategies and resiliency among children and families.” 

The team used data from the CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program from January 1 to October 17, 2020 and the same period during 2019. This emergency department data includes a subset of hospitals in 47 states and represents around 73% of emergency department visits in the US. 

2:18 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

A Covid-19 outbreak among the Amish showed importance of trust-building by local public health department

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

A Covid-19 outbreak among the Amish this spring showed the real need for public health officials to build trust among a community that typically limits engagement with the government.

Despite the pandemic, the Amish community in the Greater Holmes County Area of Ohio continued to hold community gatherings. During the outbreak in May, there were at least six social gatherings, including a logistical meeting to plan church services, three church services, a wedding, and a funeral, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ohio state and county health officials wrote in the CDC’s weekly report Thursday. 

The team said those gatherings likely contributed to the rapid spread of Covid-19. Some community members also had misconceptions about what would protect them from infection. Some said they thought wearing a mask would cause them harm. Others thought if they took vitamins and herbs it would protect them. 

The local public health department learned about the outbreak after a couple tested positive in mid-May. The husband, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had to be hospitalized for a couple of days. Another adult family member with cancer who tested positive for Covid-19 died May 21. 

Community leaders told the Wayne County Health Department that a number of people in the community had symptoms so the department set up testing at the local school. In total, 30 people tested positive for Covid-19. The report suggests there may have been more cases, but the more traditional members of the community may not have gotten tested.

The local health department interviewed some of the Amish at the testing site and learned about some of the misconceptions about the ways to stop the spread of the disease. 

Researchers also learned that the community didn’t have access to updated and trusted guidance. Most rarely, if ever, used the internet or email. Nonetheless, many understood the importance of social distancing and knew that coughing and sneezing could spread the virus.

Wearing a mask was not socially or culturally acceptable, some members of the community said. Some were also reluctant about social distancing, because communal cultural practices were central to the Amish identity. 

The CDC said it is important for health departments to build trusting relationships with the Amish. The departments should use culturally sensitive language when they reach out to community leaders and emphasize the message that mitigation behaviors protect the family and the community. Health education materials should be shared through Amish newspapers and local radio stations. Access to testing needs to be convenient and timely.

1:46 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Medicago and GlaxoSmithKline announce Covid-19 vaccine trials

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The GlaxoSmithKline company headquarters in London, England.
The GlaxoSmithKline company headquarters in London, England. Martyn Williams/Alamy

Biopharmaceutical company Medicago has developed an experimental coronavirus vaccine candidate, which uses drug giant GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) adjuvant.

An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response, which creates stronger immunity against infections. 

In this case, Medicago's vaccine uses virus-like particles grown in a close relative of the tobacco plant. The vaccine combines the particles with GSK's adjuvant to generate an immune response.

The two companies announced on Thursday that the vaccine candidate was entering Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials.

The trial will evaluate the vaccine's efficacy, safety and ability to provoke an immune response.

"Our Phase 1 results of the adjuvanted vaccine candidate were very encouraging and fully support further clinical evaluation," Nathalie Landry, executive vice president of scientific and medical affairs at Medicago, said Thursday.
"This is the first of several GSK Covid-19 vaccine candidate collaborations to start Phase 2/3 clinical testing and an important step forward in our contribution to the global fight against the pandemic," Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GSK Vaccines, said.

The Phase 2 trial will part be conducted in multiple sites in Canada and, upon allowance from the US Food and Drug Administration, in the US.

The volunteers will include healthy adults ages 18 to 64 and elderly adults over 65, according to the announcement. Each age group will include more than 300 subjects.

1:09 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Irish citizens abroad advised not to return home for Christmas

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

Irish citizens living abroad should not book travel home for Christmas as it is “too soon” and risks further spreading Covid-19, Ireland's deputy prime minister said Thursday.

“I know that's difficult. I know that's tough. But Christmas is six weeks away and it's too soon now I think for people to be booking flights to come home,” Leo Varadkar said, answering questions in Ireland's parliament. 

Covid-19 infections have fallen in Ireland since the country became the first in Europe to implement a second national lockdown on October 21. The restrictions are due to ease on December 2.

Varadkar said the country was “ahead of projections in terms of getting the virus under control" with the average number of weekly cases being only a quarter "of what it was a few weeks ago."

But international travel and the festive season poses the risk of “reseeding” Covid-19 back into the country, he said, adding that travel from Northern Ireland could be even riskier than from Qatar or Miami. 

Ireland has reported 66,247 overall cases and 1,965 deaths. Neighboring Northern Ireland has a total of 44,693 cases and 810 deaths despite having a population of just 1.88 million compared to Ireland's 4.9 million.

12:41 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Biden adviser: US lockdown of four-to-six weeks could drive down Covid-19 numbers

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Medical workers register motorists at a Covid-19 drive-thru testing site in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, November 9.
Medical workers register motorists at a Covid-19 drive-thru testing site in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, November 9. Joel Angel Juarez/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A four-to-six-week lockdown could drive down the US' surging Covid-19 cases, if the government covered lost wages and small business losses, a member of President-elect Biden’s transition coronavirus advisory board has said.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, suggested the idea in an interview with Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

Osterholm said that the personal savings rate in the US had increased, and there was “a big pool of money out there” which could be borrowed at historic low interest rates by the federal government. 

“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individuals workers, for losses to small companies to medium-sized companies," Osterholm said. "For cities, states, county governments, we can do all of that."

If we did that then we could lock down for four to six weeks and if we did that, we could drive the numbers down. Like they’ve done in Asia. Like they did in New Zealand and Australia," he added.

If this happened, “then we could really watch ourselves cruising into the vaccine availability in the first and second quarter of next year and bringing back the economy long before that."

US cases hit 10 million on Tuesday, with infection rates still rising in many states.

CNN is tracking the spread of Covid-19 across the US here: