This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Tuesday, November 17th, 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:

2:30 p.m. New York City health officials on Tuesday reported a seven-day average coronavirus test positivity of 2.7%, enabling public schools to continue in-person instruction for at least another day.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he would close all city schools and transition to full-remote learning should the average testing positivity rise above 3%. Over the last few days, the levels have narrowly avoided that threshold, with three consecutive days above 2.9%

The city's latest daily positivity was 3.2%.

Similarly, the daily average of new cases is now over 1,000. That number has gone up for 10 straight days.

During a press conference on Tuesday, de Blasio noted one "silver lining" in the indicators: hospitalizations due to COVID have risen over time but not increased dramatically, meaning that hospitals have not seen their capacity strained as they did during the spring.

"This is the most important in terms of life and death," de Blasio said.

But the prospect of a citywide school closure continues to be the pressing and widely debated issue in New York City. About 300,000 children are attending school in-person and some parents have mounted a campaign to keep schools open, citing the lack of evidence that schools are contributing to broader community transmission and the fact that indoor dining has not been halted.

As he did on Monday, de Blasio said there were ongoing discussions between city, state and union officials about how to reopen schools should the city hit 3%, but he declined to provide specific details.

"We’re talking through the right way to handle this," he said. "If we hit that threshold, how we can turn around and come back as quickly as possible and what it is going to take?"

California Halts Reopening As Governor Pulls “Emergency Brake”

Sign points to a mask mandate at the Grand Central Market, in Los Angeles.

Sign points to a mask mandate at the Grand Central Market, in Los Angeles.

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Sign points to a mask mandate at the Grand Central Market, in Los Angeles.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock

Facing a doubling of coronavirus cases in the past 10 days, most of California is headed for a return to the stricter restrictions that bans or greatly reduces indoor dining, and also closes gyms, museums, and houses of worship.

Los Angeles, the country's second largest school district which had been planning to resume in-person classes, will now remain fully remote.

Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced the rollback Monday, the same day in which the state reported a record 13,000 new cases.

“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes.”

Several governors have recently issued new rules as virus cases skyrocket across much of the country, threatening to strain hospital capacity in several states. In Iowa, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds issued a statewide mask mandate after having originally refusing to do so, saying it would be impossible to enforce and amount to "a feel-good" measure.

More restrictions may lie ahead for Californians. Newsom on Monday said he was investigating the possibility of imposing a curfew on businesses, citing similar measures taken in Europe as well as the Northeast. Los Angeles County is currently weighing a curfew. Home to more than 10 million people, the county recently saw two straight days of more than 3,000 new virus cases.

Many of the cases in the sprawling state have been attributed to parties or family gatherings. As a result, the governor has asked people not to convene with those outside their household. In an embarrassing revelation, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Newsom had attended an outdoor dinner at French Laundry, an upscale restaurant in Napa Valley, that included at least a dozen guests from different households.

Critics seized on the story and accused the governor of hypocrisy.

On Monday, Newsom apologized for not leaving the restaurant when he realized the size of the gathering.

“I want to apologize to you because I need to preach and practice, not just preach and not practice, and I’ve done my best to do that,” he said. “We’re all human. We all fall short sometimes.”