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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1:27 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

US has 100 million kits for distributing coronavirus vaccines, Operation Warp Speed officer says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

General Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for the Defense Department's Project Warp Speed
General Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for the Defense Department's Project Warp Speed Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Operation Warp Speed has 100 million vaccine kits ready to go if and when distribution of a coronavirus vaccine starts, Gen. Gustave Perna, Warp Speed’s chief operating officer, said Thursday. 

Vaccine maker Pfizer says it plans to ask the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its vaccine on Friday, and federal government officials have said they expect to have 40 million doses of vaccine ready to go in December.

Perna told a briefing by the White House coronavirus task force that the operation will be ready to move quickly after any FDA authorization.

“We take the Pfizer vaccine – they are capable of distributing on their own,” Perna said. “They will utilize FedEx and UPS in order to execute distribution. Simultaneously we will ship ancillary kits, needles and alcohol wipes and the dilution required to meet the vaccine at the end state facilities we are talking about,” he said.

Vaccine maker Moderna is also expected to apply for EUA soon. Both companies have been manufacturing vaccine doses in the expectation that their products will be proven safe and effective. 

“For Moderna vaccines, what we're going to do is that we are going to meet up the vaccine with the kits at a distribution warehouse. We’re going to put them together and distribute through FedEx and UPS down to our administration sites,” Perna said.

“We are taking it from fill-finish and bringing together all of the requirements to administer the vaccine and sending it down to the distribution sites. Any place a state wants to administer the vaccine, as long as they are enrolled into our process, we can distribute the vaccine,” Perna added.

“We can distribute the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. We can go to one place in the state or 10,000 places in the state.”

6:08 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Fauci says Pfizer and Moderna vaccine results are "extraordinary"

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Dr. Anthony Faucispeaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19.
Dr. Anthony Faucispeaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Coronavirus vaccines under development by Moderna and Pfizer have shown extraordinary efficacy, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Thursday.

Both makers reported preliminary data that showed their vaccines prevented about 95% of coronavirus infections. Pfizer is expected to seek US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization for its vaccine Friday. 

The vaccines prevented both infection and severe disease, Fauci noted in a rare White House coronavirus task force briefing, the first held since July 8.  

“That is extraordinary,” Fauci said. “That is almost to the level of what we see with measles (vaccine), which is 98% effective.”  

Fauci defended the quick vaccine development process. “The process of the speed did not compromise at all safety, nor did it compromise scientific integrity,” he said.

“We need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way,” said Fauci, who, as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is helping oversee vaccine development.

“This was solid.”

5:38 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

California issues overnight curfew to halt Covid-19 spread

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is enacting a curfew as part of a “limited stay-at-home order” that will affect about 94% of the state’s population.

The order requires those in California’s most restrictive of four tiers to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time.

The month-long order takes effect Saturday night and is essentially the same as the stay-at-home order issued in March, but applies only during those specific hours to residents in "purple tier" counties, according to a news release sent by Newsom’s office.

The reason for the specific hours noted that activities conducted during this time that are often nonessential and more likely related to social activities and gatherings that have a higher likelihood of leading to reduced inhibition, the governor's office said.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”

5:52 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Minnesota landmarks to light up purple in honor of Covid victims and frontline workers

From CNN's Raja Razek

Cities and towns across Minnesota tonight will light landmarks in purple to honor victims of Covid-19 and frontline workers, Gov. Tim Walz's office said in a news release.

"As Minnesota reaches the grim milestone of over 3,000 lives lost due to COVID-19, cities and towns across the state tonight will light dozens of Minnesota landmarks in purple to honor victims of COVID-19 and the frontline workers battling the pandemic. Cities, towns, sports team, museums, libraries, companies, and more will join in this solemn moment of unity across the state," the release said. 

The governor also directed flags be flown at half-staff on Nov. 19 and Dec. 19 "to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19," the release said.

5:30 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Fauci says help is on the way but Americans need to do more to stop coronavirus spread

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Susan Walsh/AP

Vaccines are almost ready to help battle the coronavirus pandemic but people need to double down on other preventative measures, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

“We are telling you that help is on the way,” Fauci said during the first public briefing held by the White House coronavirus task force since July 8.

But that means people must now increase their use of masks, avoiding gatherings and keeping their distance from others, he said.

“If you are fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting until the cavalry gets here,” Fauci said.

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.