This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, August 14th, 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, and professional sports (without fans). 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.

From the start of the coronavirus pandemic, experts frequently invoked the 1918 influenza outbreak as the so-called "mother of all pandemics." With the lack of modern medical interventions and uneven social distancing and quarantine measures, the disease proved to be the deadliest in the modern era, resulting in the deaths of 50 million people, including 675,000 Americans.

Early on, while the 1918 flu pandemic loomed as a tragic benchmark, approaching its severity seemed unlikely.

Now, a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA Network Open finds that the death toll in New York City this past spring came close to that of the peak of the 1918 flu pandemic, specifically 70 percent as great.

Between March 11th and May 11th, nearly 33,500 people died in New York City. Using a population of 8.3 million, that comes out to an incident rate of 202.08 deaths per 100,000 person-months. Doing the corresponding calculation for October and November, the peak of the city's flu outbreak, the researchers calculated an incident rate of 287.17 deaths per 100,000 person-months.

Researchers also compared those death rates to that of the three prior years and found that in 2020, the figure was four times higher, while in 1918, it was nearly three times higher. In other words, the coronavirus pandemic had a more dramatic impact on the city's death toll than that of the 1918 flu.

That is the opposite of what was expected given the medical advances, including the use of antibiotics, and public health interventions that exist today compared to a century ago.

As of Friday, the U.S. has more than 5.2 million infections, including more than 167,000 deaths from the virus.

After once being the epicenter of the pandemic, New York City now has seen the number of daily confirmed cases fall below 100 in recent days. At its peak in April, there more than 6,300 infections in a day.

The authors of the JAMA study said that by showing the "unusual magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic," they hoped to spur "more prudent policies" to help decrease the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed in the weeks to come.

On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, expressed his concern over the continuing surges in parts of the country, brought on by rushed reopenings and a lack of adherence to safety protocols like social distancing and mask wearing.

"Bottom line is, I'm not pleased with how things are going," he said, later attributing the uneven response to the country's political divisiveness.

Others have blamed the President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed the virus, urged states and schools to reopen, and long resisted wearing a mask.

Seeking to capitalize on Trump's missteps with regards to the pandemic, former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has called for a nationwide mask mandate requiring all Americans to wear masks in public settings.

He said the measure could save the lives of at least 40,000 people.

“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum,” Biden said Thursday, speaking to reporters in Delaware. “Every governor should mandate it.”

To date, more than 30 states, including New York, has a mask requirement.

Trump, who has ignored public health experts and once dangerously suggested injecting disinfectants to cure the virus, called Biden's proposal "anti-scientific."