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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8:12 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines could be given European authorization by mid-December

From CNN’s James Frater in London

Vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna could be given approval for market by mid-December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday.

“If all proceeds with no problems, EMA (European Medicines Agency) tells us that the conditional marketing authorization for BioNTech and Moderna could happen as early as the second half of December 2020,” von der Leyen said.

She added that this is the “very, very first step to be able to go on to the market” with both of these vaccines.     

The Commission president said that all vaccines are properly assessed by the EMA and authorized in cooperation with other authorities. They worked closely with the FDA on authorization of the BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The European Commission now has contracts with Pfizer/BioNTech, Curevac, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi and continue negotiations with Moderna. They are also still in talks with Novavax.

12:36 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

WHO recommends against use of remdesivir for treatment of Covid-19

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The World Health Organization has updated its ongoing guidance on Covid-19 medications to advise against using the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients, no matter how severe their illness may be.

According to the update, published in the medical journal the BMJ on Thursday, current evidence does not suggest remdesivir affects the risk of dying from Covid-19 or needing mechanical ventilation, among other important outcomes.

WHO's new update comes about a month after the company Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, announced that the US Food and Drug Administration approved remdesivir for the treatment of coronavirus infection. The drug became the first coronavirus treatment to receive FDA approval. 

Remdesivir may have received FDA approval but not WHO's recommendation because of emerging research -- which initially showed some benefit against Covid-19, but as more data accumulate, that appears to be changing, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who was not involved in the WHO guidance. 

"We've seen people realize that the benefit of remdesivir is marginal at best -- and the only benefit we had been touting was maybe it gets people better quicker. But the evidence base for that is weak, it's not ironclad, and I think that's what we're seeing reflected in the WHO guidance, just more evaluation of the data that's out there and more of now,” Adalja told CNN on Thursday.

"The fact that it was an antiviral that showed some benefit in certain trials — but not in all trials -- was enough to push people to want to use it because we had no tools, but I do think it probably will be supplanted shortly," Adalja said, adding that the indication for drugs can change over time.

Some context: WHO convened an international panel of 24 experts and four survivors of Covid-19 to review data and make recommendations. The recommendation against remdesivir was based on data from four randomized trials including 7,333 people hospitalized with Covid-19.

"The panel concluded that most patients would not prefer intravenous treatment with remdesivir given the low certainty evidence," researchers from various institutions around the world wrote in the updated WHO guideline.

8:11 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Los Angeles records highest number of Covid cases in a single day

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

With 5,031 new Covid-19 cases reported Thursday, Los Angeles County has reached a daily case count not seen before in the pandemic.

The previous daily case high, recorded just Wednesday, was 3,994. The summertime peak in Los Angeles averaged just over 3,000 cases per day.

The increase in cases is climbing at an alarming rate.

“From Oct. 28 to Nov. 10, the average daily cases have increased 68%,” County Health Officer Muntu Davis reported. “We are seeing a much more rapid surge in cases than we saw in the summer.”

Late June to early July saw a steep incline of a 43% case increase in Los Angeles. 

“Honestly, we never expected or hoped that we would be in this situation at this time of the year,” said Davis. “We were really hoping that would be, he would be in stage two by this time of the year. In November, getting our schools, you know, back open, but unfortunately we're not seeing that. And this is an unfortunate place to be, as we're going in the tradition of the traditional holiday season where people traveled and get together.” 

Davis was unable to identify the exact cause of the sudden surge.

“I think we have seen, based on interviews, a number of different activities that people have done it's been very hard to pinpoint unless they know exactly, if they were around someone who became sick or found out later that someone was sick and did have the virus. You know, that's where their exposure was,” he said.

Los Angeles health officials are encouraging people to stay with their households, wear face coverings when outdoors, and opt out of unnecessary travel.

8:09 p.m. ET, November 19, 2020

CDC recommends against travel for Thanksgiving

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans should not travel for Thanksgiving, and has posted updated guidelines for safely celebrating the holiday.

"CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period," Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, told reporters in a conference call.
"Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads, to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time."

"The reason that we made the update is that the fact that over the week we've seen over a million new cases in the country," Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz, the CDC's lead for Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force, said during the briefing.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States. More than 11.5 million people have been diagnosed with the virus and the United States has set several new daily records for hospitalizations.

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