This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. 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. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting December 14th. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools partially reopened on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.

Get answers to questions you may 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:

2:13 p.m.: In conjunction with a nationwide memorial effort, New York City will on Tuesday honor the more than 26,000 residents who have died from coronavirus.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., buildings across the city will be lit in remembrance, and churches will ring their bells. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he and the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, will attend a special ceremony at the Statue of Liberty.
“This has touched every one of us,” the mayor said during Tuesday’s press briefing, adding, “Let’s never forget [the victims] and resolve to move forward as a city and a nation.”

Similar memorial services are expected to take place across the country at the request of President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on Wednesday. Washington D.C. will hold a lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Biden has called the events “a national moment of unity and remembrance.”

As of January 19th, 399,053 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S.

Vial with the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19, January 2021.

Biden's COVID Advisor Questions Cuomo's Attempt To Buy Vaccines Directly From Pfizer

1:16 p.m.: A presidential advisor for Joe Biden’s incoming administration told CNBC Monday evening that Governor Andrew Cuomo's request to buy COVID-19 vaccines directly from Pfizer would only create a bidding war between states for the shots, exacerbating the nation's "patchwork" response to the pandemic already.

The governor sent a letter to Pfizer on Monday asking to purchase vaccines from the company itself since supplies from the feds are dwindling. Pfizer said it would need federal approval.

Dr. Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist at NYU and member of President-elect Biden's COVID-19 task force, said allocating vaccines through state-by-state purchases would raise the same issues the nation saw with the struggle for ventilators last spring.

"We've already had too much of a patchwork response across the states, and I think Governor Cuomo himself had said back in the spring that the situation around ventilators was essentially 'one big Ebay' with all of the states bidding against one another for ventilators," Gounder said on CNBC.

"This kind of approach to vaccine allocation is going to result, frankly, in the same kind of situation that he himself was criticizing last spring," she added. While supplies of the vaccine drop, equitable distribution is also falling behind in some parts of the country. A Kaiser Health News analysis found that white residents are being vaccinated up to two or three times more often than Black residents across 16 states that have released such data. Dose administration by race has not been made public in New York City or state, despite multiple requests from Gothamist.

In his letter to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Cuomo wrote the federal government is delivering 250,000 doses this week, a drop of 50,000 doses relative to last week. This cut comes after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention broadly expanded its recommendations for eligibility.

"Our top priority is putting shots in arms and we make no apologies for exploring all options and we wouldn’t even be here if the Trump administration kept its word for once," Cuomo's spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in an emailed response to Gothamist about Gounder's comments.

"That said, we look forward to working with the incoming administration, which we know wants to partner with the states to fight this virus and will put country over politics," Azzopardi added.

Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed with the governor's request during an interview with CNN on Monday.

"I would argue, get the doses where they can be most quickly put in the arms of the people who need them. That’s the best way to fight this crisis for everyone and then maximize production in a way that obviously didn’t happen in the previous administration but could happen in the Biden administration," de Blasio said on CNN.

President-elect Biden has committed to administering 100 million doses in his first 100 days across the country.