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November 24 coronavirus news

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What you need to know

  • US Covid-19 cases could reach 20 million by Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, according to a new modeling forecast from Washington University in St. Louis.
  • The US could start distributing doses of a Covid-19 vaccine “soon after” Dec. 10, the Health and Human Services secretary said.
  • AstraZeneca says its experimental coronavirus vaccine developed with the University of Oxford has shown an average efficacy of 70% in large-scale trials.

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Japan reduces subsidized domestic travel campaign due to rise in Covid-19 cases

The Japanese government has scaled back its subsidized domestic “Go to Travel” campaign due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 cases.

The cities of Osaka and Sapporo will be removed from the destinations of the government’s popular program for at least three weeks until Dec. 15 to help curb the spike. 

“It was a tough decision. But we made the decision to avoid further strain on the medical system in those cities,” said Kazuyoshi Akaba, the Minister of Transport in charge of the scheme. 

On Tuesday, Osaka registered 210 new coronavirus cases while Hokkaido, home to Sapporo city, counted 216 new infections. The capital city of Tokyo recorded 186 new cases.

Japan’s Health Ministry announced 1,228 new Covid-19 infections and 12 deaths over 24 hours on Tuesday.

The country’s total numbers now stand at 136,012 confirmed cases with a death toll of 2,015.

Coronavirus treatments have helped lower mortality rates, says FDA commissioner

Coronavirus treatments have helped lower mortality rates, but they aren’t a replacement for public health measures, Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said Tuesday.

“At the beginning of this pandemic the mortality, the percentage of those over the age of 70 who died once getting it was 30%. It’s just awful,” Hahn told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in an interview posted to Instagram.
“Now it’s around 11%, and that’s because the great doctors of this country have learned how to take care of the patients, but we have new treatments.”

Hahn cited remdesivir, steroids, convalescent plasma, and monoclonal antibodies.

He noted that the FDA recently issued emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly and Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatments.

“What we found and issued in the authorization is that they may be effective early in the disease as outpatients,” he said.

Hahn said those treatments are all weapons against coronavirus, but the bottom line is that Americans must continue to practice public health measures if they want to help prevent people from getting sick.

“We have to protect our most vulnerable,” Hahn said.

US reviewing AstraZeneca's vaccine data to see if better efficacy is possible, Warp Speed chief says

The US government’s Operation Warp Speed effort is trying to understand discrepancies in data coming out of trials of AstraZeneca’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser to the mission, said Tuesday.

It might be possible to adjust the US trial arm if it turns out a different dose of the vaccine works better, he said. 

AstraZeneca said Phase 3 trial data from testing in Britain and Brazil indicated the vaccine was 62% effective – except for a batch tested in 3,000 volunteers that looked to be 90% effective in preventing infection. The vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, is also being tested in the US but there’s no data from that arm of the trial yet.

“We are, of course, also reviewing in depth with the AstraZeneca and Oxford teams all the specifics of the data generated to understand what difference there is between a schedule that gives a 62% efficacy and one that gives 90% efficacy,” Slaoui told an Operation Warp Speed briefing Tuesday.

AstraZeneca said surprisingly, the stronger effects were seen in volunteers who got a half dose of the vaccine, boosted by a full dose a month later. The 62% efficacy was seen in the majority of volunteers who got the proper dosing for both shots.

“We have been made aware of what’s called now the half dose at the time it happened, was a change in the way the quantity of vaccine put in a vial was tested,” Slaoui said.

He seemed to indicate the half dose was given by mistake. “And when they realized there was an error or change in the approach, technique used, they corrected it. In the meantime, about 3,000 subjects were recruited, half in the placebo and half in the vaccine group.” 

That would skew the results. Clinical trials are carefully designed, and results that came from mistakes usually are not included in the final reports of those trials. But clinical trials can be adjusted if mistakes show a different dosing regimen, for instance, can provide better outcomes.

“What we’re now looking to analyze is what immune response has been induced in those who have received the half dose and the full dose versus those that have received twice the full dose and understand whether there are differences in the immune response induced,” Slaoui added.

Iraqi lawmaker dies of Covid-19, parliament statement says

Iraqi lawmaker Hussein al-Zuhairi died of complications from Covid-19 on Wednesday, according to a statement released by the Iraqi parliament. He died in Lebanon, where he was receiving treatment, according to sources inside the Iraqi parliament’s media office.

“With deep sorrow and with greater sadness, we announce the death of lawmaker Hussein al-Zuhairi, as a result of complications from Covid-19,” the Iraqi parliament statement said.
“He was an example of perseverance and dedication and was able to leave a good impact during his parliamentary career, his patriotic stances, and his long history in combating dictatorship.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 12,031 people have died of complications from Covid-19 in Iraq, and 593,749 have contracted the virus, according to government records.  

FDA is encouraging development of at-home coronavirus tests, commissioner says 

The US Food and Drug Administration is encouraging the development of at-home coronavirus tests, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Tuesday. 

“We have a number of applications in house for people who are developing a home test,” Hahn told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in an interview posted to Instagram. “That is something that we prioritize at the agency.”

The FDA recently issued emergency use authorization for the Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, a self-test for Covid-19 that can provide rapid results at home.

“This is the first step, and I see more of this coming,” Hahn said.

US reports more than 2,000 new Covid-19 deaths

The United States has reported more than 2,000 deaths from Covid-19 today, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  

The country has reported at least 2,081 new fatalities so far on Tuesday.

This is the 21st time that the US has added more than 2,000 new deaths in a day. These are the highest new death numbers the US has seen since May.

Per JHU data, the US has also reported at least 169,766 new infections so far today, bringing the nationwide total to 12,587,994 confirmed cases and at least 259,860 virus-related fatalities.

CNN is tracking US cases:

The FDA won’t authorize a vaccine just "on the basis of a press release," commissioner says 

A health worker injects a person during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on Sept. 9, 2020.

While the efficacy results recently reported by coronavirus vaccine makers are impressive, “the FDA doesn’t authorize vaccines or approve any medical product, just on the basis of a press release,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said Tuesday.

Pfizer submitted an application to the FDA last Friday requesting emergency use authorization of its coronavirus vaccine. So far, it’s released data only in a news release, but says the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing infection.

“Our scientists are going to pour over the data – and remember, this is a study of over 44,000 individuals – so we’re going to look at all the patient data and be very careful about number crunching to make sure that we agree with the conclusion regarding safety and efficacy,” Hahn told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in an interview posted to Instagram.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss the data. Hahn said the public will be able to watch the meeting virtually, and a summary of the data will be available online.

“That committee is going to report back to us, and then after we hear their recommendations, we’re going to move forward,” he said.

Hahn emphasized the FDA will not hesitate to make a decision “either up or down” based on the information available.

“We’re going to use that process for every other application that comes forward, no matter what,” he added.

US sets record for Covid-19 hospitalizations

Medical staff members treat a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 19 in Houston.

The United States set a record for the number of people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. 

As of Tuesday, 88,080 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to CTP. This is the highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations the nation has ever experienced. 

According to CTP data, the highest hospitalization numbers are: 

Nov. 24: 88,080 Nov. 23: 85,836 Nov. 22: 83,779 Nov. 21: 83,232 Nov. 20: 82,150

Los Angeles County reports highest number of Covid-19 deaths in months amid alarming surge

Los Angeles County is reporting the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in more than two months, an alarming new toll as the region sees an unprecedented surge of new infections ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 51 new deaths on Tuesday, the highest number since Sep. 9. The number of people hospitalized with coronavirus has also nearly doubled in the last two weeks, with 1,575 now being treated. More than a quarter of those hospitalized are in intensive care.

“Covid-19 hospitalizations continue to accelerate at alarming speed,” the health department said in a statement, urging residents in the nation’s most populous county to only leave home for essential needs.

The toll comes a day after the county reported its highest daily number of new infections since the start of the pandemic and as officials order all restaurants to close outdoor dining starting Wednesday evening to curb spread of the virus. The county is also planning to issue a new stay-home order in the coming days. 

“People mixing with others not in their household has driven the Covid-19 pandemic in L.A. County to dangerous levels,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Because L.A. County reached a five-day average case rate over 4,500 new cases, Public Health is working with the Board of Supervisors on additional safety measures to reduce transmission of the virus.”

Gyms and indoor dining likely to close again in New York City, mayor says

People wearing masks walk by people dining at a restaurant in the Meatpacking district on November 21 in New York City.

More restrictions are likely returning to New York City, including restaurant and gym closures, as the coronavirus crisis deepens, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned today. 

“In the next week or two we should see some substantial restrictions,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I think indoor dining will be closed. Gyms will be closed. I’m not happy about it. No one is happy about it but that’s what’s coming.”

De Blasio, who has taken a criticism for opening the city’s public schools in the fall, only to close them again this week, said his administration is working on a plan to reopen but that it will take “immense logistical effort” and a lot more testing.

“I know we can come back,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of testing, but we’re going to come back.”

White House testing czar: US faces "dangerous point" in pandemic

Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House’s coronavirus testing czar, today warned that as winter approaches, the US faces a perilous moment in the pandemic, but he emphasized the worst outcomes could be avoided if Americans take proper precautions. 

The US is at a “critical and very dangerous point in this pandemic where cases are rising in nearly every jurisdiction and our hospital capacity is … really getting challenged by this,” Giroir told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. 

“It does not have to be this way,” he continued, recommending physical distancing, the universal wearing of masks in public spaces, proper hygiene and frequent testing. “…If you don’t do those simple things all those [worst] statistics are going to be be a reality.”

“It’s a dangerous situation … but it’s reversible,” he added. 

Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, also discussed the White House coronavirus task force’s consideration of whether to reduce the recommended quarantine period from 14 days, saying Americans are more likely to abide by a shorter quarantine.

“People are much more likely to listen to a 10-day quarantine than they are a 14-day quarantine, so if we can shorten it safely with no risk … that might actually improve our public health responses.”

“We are looking at it … It’s not an announcement that it’s happening … it may change but it may not,” he said. 

Watch:

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Almost all US Navy installations across US are raising their health protection measures due to Covid-19

Almost all US Navy installations in the continental US are having their health protection measures against Covid-19 tightened Tuesday to protect the force and military families, according to a US Navy official. 

All but the Naval Air Station at Fallon in the remote Nevada desert will institute stronger measures at Health Protection Condition Level Charlie just one step below the most stringent level.           

While commanders can make detailed decisions about their bases, under the so-called “Charlie” measures now imposed on naval installations, schools, daycare and community activities may be canceled. It also introduces travel restrictions and more personnel may be ordered to work from home. Additionally family activities may be restricted to homes for a prolonged period of time. 

The Pentagon and military facilities in the Washington, DC, are also seeing some increased restrictions due to the rise in cases in northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. Those restrictions call for a resumption in increased teleworking, smaller group gatherings and restricted dining in facilities.

There are now approximately 400 active duty military medical personnel on “prepare to deploy” orders that would result in them being sent to help civilian health care facilities in various hotspots if requested by Federal Emergency Management Agency. While there have been medical personnel on this status for some time, in the last few weeks the timeframe for many of them to be ready to deploy has been cut to as little as 48 hours, according to two defense officials. In the last few weeks military medical teams have already deployed to El Paso, Texas, and North Dakota.

Colombia's first lady tests positive for Covid-19

Maria Juliana Ruiz,​ first lady of Colombia, attends the 2019 Concordia Americas Summit in Bogota on May 14, 2019.

Colombia’s first lady Maria Juliana Ruiz has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from the Office of the Presidency on Tuesday.

“At this time, she is asymptomatic and following the isolation protocols established by the Ministry of Health,” the statement said. 

Colombian President Ivan Duque has tested negative, according to the statement.

Florida health system is preparing to distribute Pfizer vaccine

Dr. Lilian Abbo, chief of infection prevention and control at Jackson Health System.

Jackson Health System in Miami, Florida, is currently making preparations to receive and distribute Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Lilian Abbo, chief of infection prevention and control at Jackson Health System, said Tuesday.

“Jackson Health System is one of five hospitals in the state and the only one in Miami who will get the vaccine in the first phase,” Abbo told CNN’s Erica Hill. “There are plans to distribute it across the other hospitals and the health systems.”

Abbo said that plans are being developed to ensure everyone who needs the vaccine will have the opportunity to take it. 

“We will be starting with health care workers, and people that are at high risk, frontline providers, following the guidelines from the health department and the state,” she said.

She added that the amount of vaccine each state will receive is still unknown.

“We have plans already in place,” Abbo said. “We have been working on this for several weeks, and that includes the refrigeration that this vaccine needs,” she added. 

Abbo added that they are educating staff about safety and potential side effects of the vaccine.

Watch:

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FDA could deliberate for "days" about emergency use authorization for Covid-19 vaccine, commissioner says

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23 in Washington, DC.

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said that discussions about whether to issue an emergency use authorization for a potential Covid-19 vaccine could take “days.”

Once the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meets on Dec. 10 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech’s application for an emergency use authorization for their coronavirus vaccine, the FDA could deliberate for days on whether to issue an EUA.

“We expect it to be days, but it’s very dependent on the complexity of the data and the comments we get back from VRBPAC,” Hahn said in an interview with USA Today published on Tuesday.

“There are several steps to the vaccine authorization process. First, a company must apply to the FDA. Then, the FDA must go through the application and send it to an outside review board called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee,” Hahn said. “That committee meets on Dec. 10 and will send the FDA its comments and recommendations. Only then can the FDA make a final decision on a vaccine.”

FDA commissioner weighs in on whether employers and schools will require Covid-19 vaccinations

Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn testifies during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on September 23.

Asked whether employers or schools may require someone to get a Covid-19 vaccine issued under emergency use authorization, US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said that it’s important to keep in mind the vaccine will still be investigational – and not approved.

“Institutions may require individuals to take an FDA-approved vaccine or apply for an exception. However, EUA products are still considered investigational,” Hahn said in an interview with USA Today published on Tuesday.

“It’s possible that some employers or schools will have questions or concerns about an investigational product issued an Emergency Use Authorization, which is why we will be as transparent as possible about the data and information we use to make our decision,” Hahn said. “This should help those organizations determine what is most appropriate for them.”

Mississippi governor says "it's clear" the state is in the middle of the second surge

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks during a press conference in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 24.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said today that “it’s clear” the state is in the middle of its second surge of Covid-19.

He said that the state is currently seeing a seven-day average of 1,300 cases per day. Hospitalizations are also trending upward, although not at the levels of peak in August, he said. 

Dr. Thomas Dobbs of the state’s health department said today that there are zero intensive care unit beds available in DeSoto County, which is in the northernmost part of the state, and just one hospital in Jackson that still has ICU beds available. 

Even if cases decline, hospitalizations will continue to rise, Reeves said. He said the state needs to continue to act.

Reeves announced that more counties throughout the state qualified for additional measures, including a mask mandate. He is adding 19 more counties to the state’s mask mandate. This means that half of the state’s counties under the additional restrictions. 

While four of the original counties do not currently meet the criteria to stay under the restrictions, Reeves said that the data shows that there is a small margin, and he has made the decision to keep the restrictions in place for another week. 

“With certainty, social gatherings in and around Halloween has helped contribute to where we find ourselves today,” Reeves said. He said that is really when this second wave began. 

What the numbers look like: The state is reporting 665 new cases today, but Dobbs said that the reporting from some of the electronic labs has not fully updated yet and the numbers will increase. The total number of cases in Mississippi is now at 144,544.

Mississippi now has a total of 3,729 deaths, with 54 new deaths reported today. Dobbs said, for perspective, there are 18% more deaths throughout the state this year than a normal year. 

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.   

Here are the latest coronavirus case numbers from Michigan

Registered nurse Erica Fairfield, right, works at the Hackley Community Care COVID-19 curbside testing site in Muskegon Heights, Michigan, on November 13. 

Michigan announced 6,290 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday afternoon, down considerably from last Friday’s record high of 9,779 cases.

The state also reported 145 deaths. The high number of deaths did include 51 “identified during a Vital Records review,” according to Michigan’s official dashboard.

A statement on the state’s website said that the new count was part of a regular tri-weekly review by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services staff.

Michigan’s total confirmed cases now stand at 320,506, with a total of 8,688 deaths.

Note: These numbers were released by Michigan’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.

The Trump administration is considering shortening the recommended quarantine time for Covid-19

Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary For Health Department of Health and Human Services, speaks during a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on September 16.

President Trump’s coronavirus task force is reviewing evidence about how long people need to quarantine to be safe amid Covid-19, according to Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir.

Giroir said at a news conference Tuesday held by the US Department of Health and Human Services that there is starting to be a “preponderance of evidence” that a shorter quarantine, complemented by a test, may be enough to slow the spread of Covid-19, and that a 14-day quarantine may no longer be necessary. He did not say specifically what shorter time period is being considered.

“We are actively working on that type of guidance right now, reviewing the evidence, but we want to make absolutely sure,” Giroir said. “Again, these kinds of recommendations aren’t willy-nilly. They’re worked on with a variety of experts.”

A spokesperson with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency is “always reviewing its guidance and recommendations in the light of new understandings of the virus that causes COVID-19, and will announce such changes when appropriate.”

CDC director relying on Covid School Dashboard for advice on closing schools