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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11:18 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Coronavirus spreads fast through mink farms, Danish study shows

From CNN Health's Maggie Fox

Mink look out from their cage during a coronavirus outbreak at a farm near Naestved, Denmark, on November 6.
Mink look out from their cage during a coronavirus outbreak at a farm near Naestved, Denmark, on November 6. Mads Claus Rasmussen/AFP/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus appears to have been introduced to Danish mink farms by a single infected person, but once it got into the densely packed animals it spread fast, Danish researchers reported Wednesday.

The virus doesn’t make the animals very sick but can circulate well among them and they can then pass it back to people, the researchers said.

“A high proportion of mink on farms can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 within a few days, which may provide major virus exposure to persons working with mink,” Anne Sofie Hammer, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Copenhagen, and colleagues wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Silent spread: Hammer's team tested mink and people at three Danish mink farms, as well as the air around the cages and the minks' feed. They found 95% of the mink at one farm were infected, 66% of the mink at the second farm were infected and 3% of the mink at the third farm were. 

“The infections we describe here occurred with little clinical disease or increase in death, making it difficult to detect the spread of infection; thus, mink farms could represent a serious, unrecognized animal reservoir for SARS-CoV-2,” they wrote.

“There is no evidence for spread of the virus outside of farm buildings, either in Denmark or in the Netherlands except by infected persons. However, there appears to be some risk of virus transmission to persons working with infected mink as well as for their contacts and thus, indirectly, for the public.” 

Coronavirus outbreaks on mink farms have caused an uproar in Denmark, where farming the animals for their fur is big business. The government ordered a cull of all 15 million mink on 1,500 farms, then rolled back the order.

10:28 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

West Virginia reports new high in hospitalizations

From CNN's Kay Jones

West Virginia on Wednesday reported its highest number of hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission rates since the pandemic began, the state's health department dashboard shows.

There were 429 coronavirus patients hospitalized in the state as of Tuesday, including 126 in ICU wards.

The state reported 953 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing its total to 36,277. It also reported 14 new coronavirus-related fatalities, bringing the death toll to 612.

Currently, the state has 11,172 active cases, accounting for 31% of the total caseload. Over the past seven days, 6,097 cases have been reported, according to the health department.

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.

9:59 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

A coronavirus test is not a "free pass" this Thanksgiving, says White House testing czar

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Adm. Brett Giroir listens during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee n Washington on September 16.
Adm. Brett Giroir listens during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee n Washington on September 16. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

A coronavirus test is not a “free pass” this Thanksgiving, Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House's coronavirus testing czar, said Wednesday.

“I know there's a rush to testing now, but if you're tested negative today, that doesn't mean you're going to be negative tomorrow or next week. That does not give you a free pass to avoid all the mitigation,” Giroir told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “You could still be highly infectious next week and really endanger your family.”

Giroir offered some practical advice for those who do decide to gather this Thanksgiving.

“Try to keep the gatherings within your household or a couple of households that adhere to the rules. Try to have good ventilation,” he said. “Yes, you may need to mask indoors. That's very, very important.” 

9:30 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Japan on "maximum alert" as daily Covid-19 cases surge to highest peak

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Yoshihide Suga speaks during a debate ahead of the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leadership election on September 12, in Tokyo.
Yoshihide Suga speaks during a debate ahead of the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leadership election on September 12, in Tokyo. Charly Triballeau - Pool/Getty Images

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the country is on "maximum alert" as it reported its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a single day since the pandemic began.

The country's Health Ministry recorded 2,191 new coronavirus cases and nine new deaths for Wednesday.

"We are at maximum alert," Suga told reporters Thursday.

Suga asked the public to wear masks, even at the dinner table, and to abide by prevention measures. He also told ministers to increase testing in high-risk facilities.

"Experts pointed out the risk of infection through group dining. They advise to wear masks in conversation even when dining. Please dine quietly with mask on. I will do it too from today," Suga said.

Tokyo recorded 493 new cases for Wednesday, the highest since the last peak of 472 cases on Aug. 27. Japan's capital city has now reported a total of 35,723 cases.

Japan's total caseload stands at 123,578, with 1,935 deaths.

8:52 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

The US may see a "graded rollout" of vaccines in the coming months, says Fauci

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

The United States may see a “graded rollout” of vaccines in the coming months, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the USA Today editorial board Wednesday.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which both require two doses, “will be going into people sometime towards the end of December 2020 and into January 2021,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

He said people can expect to have “good degree of immunity” about one week after receiving the second dose.

Fauci said that potentially by late January or February, “some of the other candidates will be available, like the Janssen one or the AstraZeneca one.” The Sanofi and Novavax vaccine candidates may be available “a couple months later,” he added.

8:12 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Largest prison in Alaska reports Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Inmate transfers at the largest prison in Alaska are suspended as the facility has a rapidly increasing outbreak of Covid-19.

There are 204 confirmed coronavirus cases at the Goose Creek Correctional Center in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, as of Wednesday evening. The prison has capacity for 1,535 inmates.

“All confirmed positive individuals as well as inmates who are symptomatic have been isolated and are evaluated by DOC medical staff twice daily to monitor any changes in symptoms,” Department of Corrections spokesperson Sarah Gallagher told CNN.

Staff at Goose Creek are now required to wear surgical quality face masks rather than cloth masks, according to Gallagher.

“Additionally, DOC continues to test and quarantine all newly remanded inmates, screen all staff prior to every shift, provide face coverings to offenders and staff, maintain a heightened level of cleaning, and treat each housing unit as a family in order to keep inmates ‘bubble’ as small as possible,” she said.

6:35 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Los Angeles health officials warn of "dangerous" Covid-19 surge

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

In an aerial view from a drone, cars line up at Dodger Stadium for Covid-19 testing on November 14, in Los Angeles.
In an aerial view from a drone, cars line up at Dodger Stadium for Covid-19 testing on November 14, in Los Angeles. David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles County health officials are warning of steep increases in Covid-19 case counts and hospitalizations, and are making plans for even tighter restrictions should the area fail at once again reining in the virus.

“We are at a dangerous place with respect to our overall cases and hospitalizations,” said Health Services Director Christina Ghaly.

Hospitalizations are projected to exceed capacity “without a rapid change in behavior," she said.

By the numbers: The seven-day case average has doubled in Los Angeles since the beginning of November, according to county supervisor Kathryn Barger, and hospitalizations are following closely behind. The county added 3,944 new cases Wednesday for a total of 348,336.

To mitigate the spread, the county’s public health order has been strengthened, requiring all nonessential businesses to shut down between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time beginning Friday.

“This is not a curfew or a lockdown, but a precautionary measure,” Barger said.

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.