This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, November 20th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms, as well as 25% indoor dining. Certain parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island under a zoned shutdown. Get answers to questions youmay have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
New Jersey could receive its first shipment of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccines by Christmas—if the company gets its emergency use application approved by U.S. regulators, state health officials said Friday.
Governor Phil Murphy said 130,000 doses could be sent directly to hospitals by mid-December.
“The news on vaccines is unquestionably good,” Murphy said during his briefing in Trenton. “Boy, it feels like it is going very meaningfully in the right direction.”
Pfizer asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday to approve widespread use of its vaccine, which officials say is 95% effective. Moderna, another pharmaceutical company, is also expected to seek federal approval for its shot in the coming weeks.
If both vaccines are approved, New Jersey could have as many as 460,000 doses by January, state health commissioner Judy Persichilli said. The vaccines are also two-dose vaccines: The Pfizer vaccine's doses are taken 21 days apart while Moderna's doses are separated by 28 days.
Persichilli said she wants to vaccinate 70% of the population, about 4.7 million people, in six months, prioritizing the state’s 650,000 health care workers as required by the CDC.
She said residents in long-term care facilities, other essential workers, and more vulnerable populations would be next in line. The vaccine, she predicted, would be available to the general population by late April or early May.
The news of the vaccine comes as the state recorded another 3,635 COVID-19 cases and its positivity rate dropped to 8%. The state is recording about 3,800 cases per day, according to its weekly average.
Meanwhile, Newark, the state’s largest city, is continuing to restrict businesses and movement as its cases rise and its positivity rate hovers at 22%. In some parts of the city, like the Ironbound, the positivity rate is as high as 35%.
Mayor Ras Baraka said Thursday he wanted to lock down the city for 10 days starting the day before Thanksgiving.
“Do not go outside if you do not have to, do not mingle with other people if you do not have to,” Baraka said on WBGO. “Stay to your family, in your immediate household.”
The city did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday about whether Baraka was issuing a citywide stay-at-home order or how he planned to enforce the measure. It’s not clear if non-essential businesses will be included in the lock down or if police officers will issue summonses to those who leave their homes.
The city’s police department also didn’t immediately provide answers.
Baraka has issued some of the most stringent restrictions in the state—including a 9 p.m. curfew in parts of the city.
Murphy has said cities cannot issue tougher measures than those implemented statewide but a spokesman for the governor said Baraka was merely asking people to shelter at home and not in violation of any executive orders.
“This advisory is entirely consistent with the administration’s position that New Jersey residents should be particularly vigilant as COVID-19 continues to spread,” spokesman Jerrel Harvey said in a statement to Gothamist/WNYC. “As Governor Murphy has repeatedly noted, any legal orders or enforceable restrictions issued by municipalities or counties must be consistent with New Jersey’s statewide framework.”
Pfizer Says It Will Submit Its Vaccine For Emergency Approval Today
The drug company Pfizer said it plans to submit an application on Friday for its coronavirus vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization.
If the approval is granted, the vaccine could be available for distribution to high-risk groups, including frontline workers and nursing home residents, in the United States as early as mid-December. The news provides a much-needed source of hope as the pandemic continues to ravage much of the country.
More than a quarter of a million U.S. residents have already died from COVID-19 and the number of total cases is closing in on 12 million.
On Thursday, the COVID Tracking Project said that the country had broken both the daily record for new cases as well as hospitalizations. Rising caseloads and hospitalizations are now leading experts to say that New York City is entrenched in a second wave.
"Filing in the U.S. represents a critical milestone in our journey to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to the world and we now have a more complete picture of both the efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine, giving us confidence in its potential,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, in an early morning statement.
Pfizer, which is working with the German company BioNTech, said on Wednesday that their vaccine was 95% effective. Prior to that, drugmaker Moderna said its vaccine had proven to be 95% effective and that it would apply for emergency authorization soon. The efficacy rivals that of the measles vaccine, which is considered the gold standard in vaccines. Two doses have a 97% rate of preventing measles.
Should both coronavirus vaccines be approved, about 20 million Americans could be vaccinated before the end of the year, according to U.S. officials.
On Thursday, during the first White House coronavirus task force press briefing in months, Dr. Anthony Fauci sought to allay concerns about the accelerated development of the vaccines.
“We need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in any inappropriate way. This is really solid,” he said.
The nation's top public health expert added: "Two of the vaccines, one by Moderna and one by the company Pfizer, have completed trials and the vaccine efficacy point is extraordinary.”
While Fauci said that the "calvary is on the way," he implored Americans to maintain social distancing and mask wearing until vaccines become widely available.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify a potential shelter-at-home in Newark.