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Nov. 20 Coronavirus updates: Latest news about the pandemic

November 20 news about the coronavirus pandemic. Thanksgiving plans may be impacted by the CDC's recent announcement and new statewide safety guidelines.
Image: US-VIRUS-HEALTH
Bodies wrapped in plastic line the walls of a refrigerated trailer used as a mobile morgue in El Paso, Texas on Nov. 13, 2020.Justin Hamel / AFP - Getty Images

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading coronavirus news from Nov. 21, 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday that Americans not travel next week for Thanksgiving. The guidance comes as the nation has seen 1 million new cases in the last week.

The latest Covid-19 data and coverage:

NYC mayor warns that indoor dining, gyms could soon close

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that the city could move into the "orange zone," which bans indoor dining, as soon as the week after Thanksgiving as cases of the coronavirus continue to surge. 

The mayor warned of the move during a radio appearance on WNYC.

"The restrictions that are coming. I've been very overt in the fact that the governor said an orange zone is coming. By our own projections, based on the state data, that will happen soon after Thanksgiving, probably the first week of December," he said, according to WABC

Under the orange zone, places such as gyms and salons will be closed and bars and restaurants will only be allowed to have outdoor dining and takeout. Indoor dining is prohibited. Nonessential indoor and outdoor dining must also be limited to no more than 10 people and violators face a fine up to $15,000 per day.

"I don't say that with anything but sorrow for the people who work in those places, the people who own those small businesses," the mayor said. "But that is what is going to happen."

Hospitalizations are at all-time high since start of pandemic

There are more people hospitalized with Covid-19 right now than “at any time since the pandemic began,” The Covid Tracking Project reported Friday.

Nearly 80,000 people infected with the virus are being treated in hospitals and the average number of hospitalizations eclipsed 72,000 in the seven day period ending Wednesday, the researchers reported.

That is a nearly 24 percent jump from the previous week and the highest average number seen since April 15, in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

“This wave of cases arrives in a moment when many hospital systems across the country are already inundated with Covid-19 patients and are warning of staff shortages,” the researchers reported.

One million new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the United States during that seven day period.

“The record levels of hospitalizations we’re already seeing will almost certainly be followed by a spike in reported fatalities,” the researchers warned. And that’s “even if Americans follow new state lockdown measures and skip big Thanksgiving gatherings,” they said.

The 8,461 deaths reported during the seven-day period is the highest weekly death count since May, they said. 

Hard-hit by Covid-19, Latinos bear mental health burden 8 months into pandemic

Ana Urbina is so afraid of contracting Covid-19 that she even worries about going outside to throw out the garbage. Staying home all the time means Urbina is watching more TV than usual — including the news, which then increases her anxiety.

“I am too stressed,” said Urbina, 60, a Miami resident who’s diabetic, disabled and immunocompromised. “The state of my health is becoming more complicated, and that stresses me.”

Urbina is among the roughly 40 percent of Latinos nationwide who reported experiencing frequent symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, according to an analysis from April 23 to Nov. 9 by the National Center for Health Statistics in partnership with the Census Bureau. The rate peaked in mid-July and at the beginning of November when nearly 50 percent of Latinos reported experiencing such symptoms.

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Pelosi emphasizes need for Covid-19 relief package as pandemic worsens

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., emphasized Friday the need for another Covid-19 relief package as the pandemic continues to worsen and with the release of several vaccines on the horizon. 

“We are in a full blown economic and health catastrophe and it's amazing to see the patience the GOP has for other people's suffering," Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference, criticizing Republicans for the deadlock with Democrats. 

"Let’s hope that it’s time for McConnell’s pause to end," she added, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying that she hopes talks about a larger government spending bill will create the impetus for Covid-19 negotiations.  

Pelosi said Congress needs to approve funding for the vaccines that are soon going to become available. “It’s here, it’s imminent ... We should be having the resources to make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably so that everyone has access to it.”

Former FDA head: Pandemic 'will run its course' for 6-8 weeks before vaccine has impact

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday morning that the coronavirus pandemic will "run its course" for six to eight weeks before any benefit from any vaccine candidate's early approval will be seen in the public health data.

Gottleib, a member of Pfizer's board of directors, said the pharmaceutical giant plans to file on Friday for an emergency use authorization [EUA] of its experimental vaccine. The EUA Pfizer seeks, Gottleib said, would allow distribution of the vaccine candidate prior to its full clinical approval.

He predicted that a vaccine's EUA wouldn’t begin to draw down coronavirus rates until next year, since the Pfizer vaccine has two doses that must be given three weeks apart, and full immunity is not established until shortly after the second dose. 

If an EUA for Pfizer's vaccine were to be issued in mid-December and the most at-risk got their first shots then, Gottleib said, they would not be immune until after their second shot in mid-January.

For the rest of the population, Gottleib said he expected that the vaccine's emergency use authorization would be amended throughout 2021 to gradually expand eligibility, which he predicted would be available to the general population in the second or third quarter of next year.

Practical hurdles, cultural distrust in Native communities could hamper vaccine distribution

When Timothy Nuvangyaoma, chairman of the Hopi Tribe, heard there were two coronavirus vaccines that both showed promising data of more than 90 percent efficacy, he felt initial relief that soon transitioned to cautious skepticism.

That’s because the logistic and cultural challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine with precise temperature requirements and two-dose administration to members of the Hopi Tribe are vast: Hopi often live in remote locations and only one-third of the population has reliable means of transportation, according to officials with knowledge of vaccine distribution planning. Hopi lands span more than 1.5 million acres and encompass parts of both Coconino and Navajo counties in northeastern Arizona.

There is a long-simmering cultural mistrust of vaccines and clinical trials felt by tribal communities as a result of historical trauma, making their skepticism about the safety of vaccines more pronounced.

“There’s always that reluctance as a Native American,” Nuvangyaoma said. “I have to make sure that it’s going to be able to help. And I don’t want to get people’s hopes up.”

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3 New York Giants football players sidelined by positive tests

Three New York Giants tested have positive for Covid-19, the NFL team announced on Friday.

The Giants did not immediately identify the players, but the team said they were "immediately notified to self-isolate, and the contact tracing process is underway."

The team does not have a game this weekend and will be back in action a week from Sunday, traveling to play the Cincinnati Bengals.

A drastic six-day lockdown in South Australia was triggered by an individual who lied to contact tracers, according to South Australia State Premier Steven Marshall.

"To say that I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement," Marshall said.

He went on to say that they are still trying to locate thousands of people who may have had contact at the Woodville Pizza Bar in Adelaide.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott tests positive for Covid

Stanford faculty pass resolution condemning Scott Atlas

Stanford faculty passed a resolution Thursday night condemning Dr. Scott Atlas, President Donald Trump’s top medical adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution, introduced by members of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee and approved by 85 percent of the senate membership, specified six actions that Atlas has taken that “promote a view of Covid-19 that contradicts medical science.”

"Atlas’s disdain for established medical knowledge violates medical ethics," they write. "His pronouncements are damaging Stanford’s reputation and academic standing."

Atlas posted on Twitter on Sunday that Michigan residents should "rise up" after the governor issued new restrictions. He earlier tweeted false information about wearing masks.

After contacts get Covid, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller won't isolate

Two people tested positive for coronavirus after having close contact with acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, who will not go into self-isolation as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

Anthony Tata, the undersecretary of defense for policy, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday and twice since, chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

Tata was tested because the Lithuanian Embassy informed the Pentagon that its defense minister, Raimundas Karoblis, had tested positive for Covid-19.

Karoblis visited the Pentagon over several days in the last week, where he met with Miller, Tata and Navy  Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite.

Miller and the others won't isolate themselves, the Pentagon spokesperson said:

"As CDC COVID mitigation guidelines were followed during the Acting Secretary’s bilateral meeting with the minister, as well as meetings with Mr. Tata, Acting Secretary of Defense Miller is not quarantining," the Pentagon said.

U.S. crosses 190,000 new daily Covid-19 cases

More than 193,000 people reported new Covid-19 infections in the U.S. Thursday, a new record. County and state health departments across the country reported 1,945 deaths. 

According to NBC News' tally, case counts have exceeded 100,000 for more than two weeks now. In the last week, an average 165,665 cases have been confirmed per day, up more than double from the average 80,669 cases per day the U.S. was averaging four weeks ago.

Several records were set Thursday on the state level:

  • Iowa reported 39 Covid-19 deaths, tying its record set the day before.
  • Kentucky reported 3,637 cases
  • Maryland had 2,912 cases
  • 72 reported dead in Minnesota
  • 28 deaths in Nebraska
  • 2,416 cases in Nevada
  • 528 cases in New Hampshire
  • 4,491 new cases in New Jersey
  • 3,665 cases in New Mexico
  • Oregon reported 20 dead
  • Vermont reported 149 new cases
  • Wyoming reported 21 deaths

Track surges across the states.

Need a negative test before heading to Hawaii, governor says

HONOLULU — Anyone flying to Hawaii will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test result prior to their departure for the state, with the new rule going into effect two days before Thanksgiving, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday.

Until now, passengers flying to the islands using a pre-travel testing program were permitted to arrive and then upload their negative test results to a state database, allowing them to skip two weeks of quarantine.

Hong Kong suspends in-person classes for some students for 2 weeks

HONG KONG — Hong Kong has suspended in-person classes for lower primary school students after the city’s top health official said the coronavirus situation in the territory was rapidly deteriorating.

Classes for primary 1 to 3 students will be suspended for two weeks from Monday. The suspension comes just over a week after kindergartens were ordered to close following an outbreak of upper respiratory tract infections.

Hong Kong confirmed 26 new coronavirus infections on Friday, 21 of which were local cases.

“I would appeal to people to stop all unnecessary gathering activities because the situation is severe now in Hong Kong,” health minister Sophia Chan said.

Pfizer to apply for emergency use for its Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer announced it will submit an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday for an emergency use authorization for its experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

Early results from Pfizer's Phase 3 clinical trials yielded promising news: Two shots, given three weeks apart, appeared to be 95 percent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are poised to have 50 million doses available this year and 1.3 billion in 2021, using facilities both in the U.S. and Belgium.

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Rachel Maddow says her partner has Covid, at one point thought it 'might kill her'

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow made an impassioned plea on Thursday night live from her home after announcing her partner of 21 years, Susan Mikula, had fallen ill with the coronavirus.

Calling Mikula the "center" of her life, the TV personality said her partner had been sick for the past few weeks, "and at one point, we really thought there was a possibility that it might kill her."

"She’s gotten sicker and sicker, while I tried to care for her while still staying physically apart from her," Maddow said, explaining her absence from the airwaves. "And the bottom line is that she’s going to be fine, she’s recovering, she’s still sick but she’s going to be OK."

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European Covid restrictions appear to be paying off, says WHO, as U.S. cases soar

LONDON — Coronavirus lockdown restrictions in Europe appear to be paying off, with a dip in new weekly cases, the World Health Organization said, offering a glimmer of hope ahead of Christmas, while cases soar in the United States.

Restrictions, from school and store closures to limited social interactions, have led to a slight decrease in new Covid-19 weekly cases from 2 million to 1.8 million over the last two weeks, the WHO said.

"It's a small signal, but it's a signal nevertheless," WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge said in a statement Thursday.

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N.Y.C. mayor's reason for closing public schools was 'arbitrary,' adviser says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio insists he relied on science when he closed public schools after the Covid-19 test positivity rate hit 3 percent, but one of his advisers told NBC News on Thursday that this was an “arbitrary” figure.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University and one of the mayor’s informal emergency response advisers, said he was indirectly involved in the talks over the summer between the city and the powerful teachers union on reopening the schools when that number was agreed upon.

“They were very concerned about reopening the schools and endangering teachers and school staffers and I don’t blame them,” according to Redlener, who said he had access to the discussions, meetings and senior members of the de Blasio administration while negotiations were taking place.

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This Thanksgiving, many opt for 'a plate at the door and some elbow bumps'

This Thanksgiving, Michelle Preble planned to fly from her home in Clackamas County, Oregon, to Texas to share a holiday dinner with her mother and her brother, Donnie, who is in home hospice care. After a lifetime of severe epilepsy due to brain damage he suffered at birth, Donnie, 43, has been told by doctors that he does not have much time left.

But because of the pandemic, Preble, 48, has made the excruciating choice not to go — even though she has not seen her brother since last Thanksgiving and does not know when she will see him next.

“However much time he still has, I want to be as much a part of it as I can, and not being able to be is heartbreaking,” Preble said. “Every day, I’m just grateful that we have one more day with him, and every day, my prayers are that I get to see him again.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, the nation’s top public health officials are urging people not to travel or hold large gatherings so they do not contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

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