This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Wednesday, October 21st, 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. Certain parts of Brooklyn and Queens are under a zoned shutdown. A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. 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:

3 p.m. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will self-quarantine through the weekend after he was potentially exposed to COVID-19 through a staff member.

Murphy abruptly left an outdoor press conference at Camden County College on Wednesday after he was informed that a senior staff member tested positive for the virus.

“I will now unfortunately have to take myself off the field, I can't ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fundraiser and have me sit here,” he said before leaving the podium.

Earlier this month, New Jersey health officials were scrambling to contact attendees of a Republican fund-raiser for President Trump at his golf course in Bedminster. After Trump revealed he had tested positive on October 2nd, more than a dozen people in the president's inner circle were also found to have been infected. To date, however, there has not been any evidence that the Bedminster event led to any positive cases in the state.

Murphy said he has no symptoms. The governor and First Lady Tammy Murphy were tested Wednesday afternoon and the results were negative, the governor's spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said. Murphy also tested negative on Monday. But infected individuals can still carry low levels of the virus that go undetected in diagnostic tests.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in line with the highest levels of commitment to protecting public health, the Governor and First Lady will be canceling their in-person events and voluntarily quarantining through the end of the weekend,” Gunaratna said in a statement.

He said the staff member is in quarantine and contact tracing efforts have begun. Murphy was in close contact with the staffer on Saturday and he will take another test before resuming any public activities next week.

The news comes as New Jersey recorded another 1,062 new cases and continues a 7-day average of nearly 12 cases for every 100,000 residents.

The state is also reporting an average of more than 1,000 cases a day, double the caseload from a month ago.

Murphy said hospitalizations are increasing to levels not seen since mid-July. Yesterday, 844 people were hospitalized.

With COVID-19 Rates Rising, Boston Closes Public Schools In Midst Of Reopening

Boston officials have decided to pause the school system’s reopening plan and revert all students to remote learning, as COVID-19 rates rise in the city.

The seven-day average there was 5.7 percent, up from last week’s average of 4.5 percent, the Boston Public Schools said on its website Wednesday.

The school system will stay in full remote learning starting Thursday until there are 14 days of falling infection rates, the BPS website said.

“We have said all along that we will only provide in-person learning for students if the data and public health guidance supports it, and this new data shows that we are trending in the wrong direction,” said Mayor Martin Walsh in the statement posted on the BPS website. “We will continue to monitor the metrics and work towards our goal of welcoming students back into our classrooms, learning among their peers, supported and educated by our dedicated staff.”

This week, Houston’s main school district began in-person learning, and Miami-Dade schools also began in-person learning earlier in October. But several big city school districts have remained remote, including Los Angeles and Chicago, which announced plans last week to roll out in-person learning for some students after November 9th.

31 States Have Been Classified As "Red Zone" Areas

A new report from the White House coronavirus task force has found that there are now 31 states designated as "red zone" infection areas, up from 26 last week.

The task force reports, which are sent weekly to governors, are being tracked and published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization based in Washington, D.C. Red zone states are defined as those with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana led the list. Montana had the highest positivity, that of nearly 20 percent.

The United States is currently seeing an average of 60,000 new cases a day, the highest since early August. More than 8 million Americans have contracted COVID-19.

The latest tally shows the extent to which the virus is now raging across the country as a third wave sets in. Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming all reported seven-day case highs on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

Some experts say that the upcoming fall surge in infections could be worse for some than the one in the spring, although the death rate has fallen as a result of better treatments.

Even as infections grow, the Center for Public Integrity noted that the task force’s weekly recommendations to states have "grown less specific and less strict, even for places facing ongoing outbreaks." It cited the report sent to Montana as an example. During the summer, the task force had recommended strict limits on gatherings. Last week, it advised the state only to “make clear recommendations to avoid indoor gatherings wherever possible.”

Despite having contained the virus over the summer, the Northeast is also experiencing outbreaks again. In a worrisome sign, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania now meet the criteria for New York's quarantine list. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said there was no way to enforce such a rule on neighboring states that are linked to the state's economy.

New York has been battling its own hot spots, which includes zones in Brooklyn and Queens. But Cuomo has continually stressed the state's overall low positivity, which has been around 1%,

"New York is doing so much better than the other states,” he said. “The norm in the country is going up. We are not going up the way the norm in the country is going up.”