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Nov. 19 Coronavirus updates: Latest pandemic news and information

November 19 news about the coronavirus pandemic. The death rate surges in the U.S. as advancements in testing and potential vaccines await approval by the FDA.
Image: COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit Within A Houston Hospital Cares For Patients As Cases Continue To Rise
A medical staff member treats a patient suffering from coronavirus in the Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at United Memorial Medical Center on Nov. 16, 2020 in Houston.Go Nakamura / Getty Images

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading the latest Covid-19 news here.

The latest Covid-19 data and coverage:

676d ago / 8:45 PM UTC

More than 119,000 Americans have died since last White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing 4 months ago

The White House will be holding a Coronavirus Task Force briefing Thursday -- it's first in four months. In that time, more than 119,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus.

A White House official confirmed to NBC News that the last one took place July 8 at the Department of Education. There have been other briefings and news conferences since then that have included members of the task force.

676d ago / 8:18 PM UTC

Atlas on the outs with coronavirus task force but still pushing Trump's pandemic claims

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President Donald Trump’s top medical adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Scott Atlas, has not attended White House task force meetings in person since late September, according to two administration officials, as he continues to spread misinformation about the worsening health crisis.

The growing split came after the group’s leading medical experts — Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci — indicated that they did not appreciate Atlas’ controversial input or contributions in the Situation Room gatherings.

“That was done in deference to Fauci and Birx because they basically said they will not work with him,” a senior administration official said about the adviser's absence at the meetings.

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676d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

'It's not enough': Health experts say Iowa governor's new Covid order is 'weak'

Over the past few weeks, Dana Jones has grown increasingly alarmed at how Iowans are handling Covid-19, with hospitals running out of intensive care unit beds and the state surpassing a 45 percent positivity rate.

So, Jones, a nurse in Iowa City, initially felt relieved to hear Monday that Gov. Kim Reynolds would sign a proclamation that included a statewide mask mandate — but then she read it.

The proclamation only requires face coverings in public when someone is within 6 feet of other people for 15 minutes or more, and there are a number of exceptions. Bars and restaurants can stay open, but have to close by 10 p.m., and masks are not required for people exercising in gyms.

“It’s not enough,” said Jones, 39. 

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676d ago / 7:40 PM UTC

Rhode Island gov. orders 2-week 'pause'

Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo announced on Thursday a two-week "pause" in the state to combat rising coronavirus rates.

The pause will shutter some businesses and leave others open, and will run from November 30 to December 13, Raimondo said, according to NBC affiliate WJAR.

In-person colleges, universities, bars, recreational areas and indoor sporting and gymnasium venues are to be closed while crowding restrictions will reduce capacity at high schools, indoor dining, retail and places of worship.

Notably, K-8 in-person education and childcare remain fully open during the Ocean State's two-week pause. 

676d ago / 7:38 PM UTC
676d ago / 7:10 PM UTC

Suit alleges Tyson Food plant manager bet on how many workers would get coronavirus

A federal wrongful death lawsuit alleges that a manager at a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa organized a group bet on how many meatpacking employees would contract Covid-19 just as the coronavirus began to spread widely among plant workers in late March and early April.

The suit, filed on behalf of the estate of deceased Tyson Foods, Inc. employee Isidro Fernandez, alleges that Covid-19 was spreading widely at the Waterloo, Iowa pork processing plant in early April when Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson visited with county health officials.

Working conditions at the plant were so bad that they "shook" Thompson "to the core," according to the suit, which said that, at that time, Waterloo plant workers were crowded together and few wore face coverings.

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676d ago / 7:02 PM UTC

Annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney to go virtual

The annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania will be closed to in-person attendance in 2021, the group announced Thursday. Punxsutawney's famed groundhog Phil will instead make his prognostication via a video feed, according to a special committee of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

"The health and safety of our faithful followers and everyone associated with Phil's prognostication has been our number one priority," a Punxsutawney Groundhog Club press release said. The release added that "the potential Covid risks to overcome are too great" to allow for in-person attendance.

676d ago / 6:46 PM UTC

Intubated COVID-19 patient plays violin to thank healthcare workers

A retired orchestra teacher who was hospitalized for COVID-19 played his violin as a tribute to nurses and doctors who had been caring for him. 

Grover Wilhelmsen, who was hospitalized at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah for over a month, couldn’t speak while intubated and instead communicated with the healthcare staff through writing. After writing to Ciara Sase, a nurse and one of his caregivers, that he wanted to play his violin to thank the staff, Sase coordinated with Wilhelmsen’s wife of 47 years to bring the instrument into the hospital.

“It brought tears to my eyes. For all the staff to see a patient doing this while intubated was unbelievable,” Sase said according to a press release from Intermountain Healthcare. “Even though he was so sick, he was still able to push through. You could see how much it meant to him. Playing kind of helped to soothe his nerves and brought him back to the moment.”

Wilhelmsen was recently discharged from the ICU to a long-term care facility where he’s expected to make a full recovery, the hospital said. 

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676d ago / 6:22 PM UTC
676d ago / 6:13 PM UTC

CDC warns America: Do not travel for Thanksgiving

Americans should avoid travel for Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday.

It was a last-minute attempt by the nation's leading public health agency to curb what's sure to be yet another dangerous spike in Covid-19 cases if families gather next week.

"In the last week, we've seen over a million new cases," Erin Sauber-Schatz, head of the CDC's Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, said Thursday on a call with reporters. "Thanksgiving is a week away."

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676d ago / 6:04 PM UTC

Dem. senator says Trump vaccine distributions team hasn't briefed Biden

676d ago / 5:58 PM UTC

Nearly one out of four sailors from the Navy destroyer USS Michael Murphy test positive for Covid

A Covid-19 outbreak among sailors assigned to the USS Michael Murphy, a guided missile destroyer in the Navy's Pacific Fleet, has sidelined most of the crew and delayed its training schedule, according to two U.S. military officials and one defense official.

Nearly a quarter of the roughly 300 sailors assigned to the ship have tested positive for Covid-19, the officials said. And while many Navy ships, especially those in port, have a handful of cases among assigned sailors, the officials acknowledge that the concentration of positives from the USS Michael Murphy is higher than has been seen with other ships.

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676d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

Sioux Falls, SD mayor says new mask mandate is part of all hands on deck effort to stop spread

Sioux Falls, South Dakota Mayor Paul TenHaken said the decision to finally enact a mask mandate despite initial reluctance is part of his effort to do “whatever we can” to stop the state’s deadly surge.

As of Wednesday, the state with a population of about 885,000, recorded over 68,671 cases and 671 deaths related to coronavirus. It also saw a 28 percent increase in Covid-19 cases in the last few weeks. It does not have a statewide mask mandate.

“We’re getting hit hard right now, and what we’re trying to do right now is ensure that healthcare capacity stays manageable,” TenHaken said.

Still, he expressed uncertainty over whether the mandate that passed Tuesday will be effective.

“Masks do slow the spread of the virus. We know that. What we haven’t  seen though is data that mask mandates really do that.”

676d ago / 5:09 PM UTC

Mayor Bill de Blasio says reopening NYC schools require stricter measures, Cuomo to close indoor dining and gyms

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that schools would remain closed indefinitely after he announced yesterday that schools would move all-remote in the country’s largest school system when the city surpassed the 3 percent standard for school shutdowns.

“This is a tough day. It was a tough decision yesterday. It’s not something anyone can possibly be happy about. I understand the frustration of parents,” de Blasio said. “We need to come up with even more stringent rules to make schools work and testing is going to be absolutely crucial.”

The mayor said that it was “just a matter of time” before Gov. Andrew Cuomo declares NYC an orange zone, which bans indoor dining and closes gyms and salons.

On Nov. 17, the city logged 1,255 new Covid-19 cases — its highest reported number this past week, according to city health department data. City residents have tested positive at a rate of 3 percent over the past seven days, according to the data.

676d ago / 4:36 PM UTC

Covid testing strained again as U.S. heads into holidays

NEW YORK — With coronavirus cases surging and families hoping to gather safely for Thanksgiving, long lines to get tested have reappeared across the U.S. — a reminder that the nation’s strained testing system remains unable to keep pace with the virus.

The delays are happening as the country braces for winter weather, flu season and holiday travel, all of which are expected to amplify a U.S. outbreak that has already swelled past 11.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths.

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676d ago / 4:12 PM UTC

Diversions and transfer delays plague hospitals overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases

With Covid-19 cases on the rise in all 50 states, the burden on hospitals has led to an increase in diversions. In addition, patient transfers are being significantly delayed due to capacity and staffing shortages, hospital administrators in some of the hardest hit states said.

The process known as diversion occurs when a hospital is over-capacity and needs to put a hold on accepting any knew ambulance traffic. Earlier this week at Elkhart General Hospital in Indiana, the hospital's 144 beds were over-capacity with 206 patients, stretching staff thin. Patients had to be temporarily housed in older areas of the hospital that had been closed. The hospital was eventually forced to issue a 7-hour diversion in order to get things under control.

“This is exactly why we were adamant about masks and flattening the curve. This is the situation that we wanted to avoid,” Dr. Michelle Bache said.

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676d ago / 4:06 PM UTC
676d ago / 3:11 PM UTC

These states set Covid-19 case and death records Wednesday

Across the country, Covid-19 cases are surging, and states are setting records for reported Covid-19 deaths and case counts.

Wisconsin set a new record for daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, counting 8,510, according to NBC News' tally. It wasn't alone: New Mexico logged 2,892 cases, and today New Jersey notched 4,491 cases.

These states set records for the number of people reported dead due to Covid-19 yesterday:

  • In Iowa, 39 reported dead.
  • 67 dead in Minnesota.
  • In Oklahoma, 26 deaths.
  • 20 dead in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. counted 167,637 cases and 1,798 deaths Nov. 18.

676d ago / 3:07 PM UTC

Latest initial weekly jobless claims tick up to 742,000

The latest weekly jobless claims rose for the first time since early October, reaching 742,000 — a much higher total than economists' forecasts of 710,000.

The data, released Thursday by the Department of Labor, is another strong indication that the labor market faces an unsteady path to recovery, as coronavirus infection rates hit record daily highs and a new wave of lockdowns and school closures sweeps the country.

"Regular initial claims alone are 3.6 times higher than their usual pre-Covid-19 levels," said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. "Eight months into this crisis, there continues to be tremendous economic uncertainty that’s regularly forcing hundreds of thousands into unemployment."

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676d ago / 2:32 PM UTC

Photo: Long lines for testing at Dodger Stadium

Image:
Motorists line up for coronavirus testing in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday in Los Angeles.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP
676d ago / 1:02 PM UTC

Oxford researchers say vaccine data expected by Christmas

LONDON — University of Oxford scientists expect to report results from the late-stage trials of their COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas, a key researcher said Thursday as he discussed the team’s latest findings.

Dr. Andrew Pollard, an expert in pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, said research was slowed by low infection rates over the summer, but the Phase III trials are now accumulating the data needed to report results as a renewed surge of the pandemic hits countries around the world. Oxford is developing its vaccine in conjunction with the drugmaker AstraZeneca.

“I think we’re getting close, and it’s definitely going to be before Christmas based on the progress,” Pollard said in an interview with the BBC.

676d ago / 1:00 PM UTC
676d ago / 11:52 AM UTC

Germany reports slowdown in Covid-19 spread

BERLIN — Germany’s disease control agency says the coronavirus situation in the country remains serious but there are signs that lockdown measures are slowing the spread of the virus.

The Robert Koch Institute reported 22,609 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past day, and 251 additional deaths.

Ute Rexroth, a senior official involved in the institute’s pandemic response, said the so-called reproduction number reflecting how many people are infected by every positive case has declined.

Germany introduced tighter restrictions at the beginning of November, shutting restaurants, bars and gyms but leaving open stores and schools.

676d ago / 11:44 AM UTC

Africa marks its 2 millionth Covid case

NAIROBI, Kenya — The African continent has surpassed 2 million confirmed cases as the top public health official warned Thursday that “we are inevitably edging toward a second wave” of infections.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 54-nation continent had crossed the milestone. Africa has seen more than 48,000 deaths from COVID-19. Its infections and deaths make up less than 4% of the global total.

The African continent of 1.3 billion people is being warned against “prevention fatigue” as countries loosen pandemic restrictions to ease their economies’ suffering and more people travel.

676d ago / 11:30 AM UTC
676d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

Georgia Democrats grapple over reaching voters in-person amid worsening pandemic

MARIETTA, Ga. — Georgia voters don't even have to get out of their car these days to meet a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

On Wednesday morning in Cobb County, one the largest Atlanta suburbs, dozens of voters slowly inched down the street leading up to the horseshoe driveway in front of Turner Chapel AME Church. Music blared from speakers as Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff chatted with voters while staffers loaded yard signs into cars. Everyone wore masks and kept at a distance.

But some Georgia Democrats are warning that while events like Ossoff's drive-through yard sign pick-up are a creative way to campaign during the coronavirus pandemic, the party will need to rethink its ground game strategy, particularly door-to-door canvassing, if they hope to win in January.

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676d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

Covid-19 vaccines could be available by the end of December. Here's what needs to happen first.

Following the release of more data from its Covid-19 vaccine Phase 3 clinical trial, the drugmaker Pfizer said Wednesday that it expects to submit an application for what's called emergency use authorization to the Food and Drug Administration "within days."

Another drugmaker, Moderna, has also said it aims to submit an application in the coming weeks. Both companies have announced preliminary results from their vaccine trials showing extremely high levels of efficacy.

Submitting emergency use authorization, or EUA, applications moves a potential coronavirus vaccine one step closer to patients, and experts say it's possible for Americans to start receiving shots by the end of December.

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676d ago / 11:28 AM UTC