This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, August 27th, 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 bowling alleys. 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:

5:30 p.m.: The state teacher’s union is calling on the state Department of Health to ensure all New York school districts enact policies requiring students to wear masks during the school day while in class.

New York City’s public schools will require students to wear masks while they’re inside school buildings. But that’s not the case across the state, according to the New York State United Teachers, who wrote a letter Thursday to state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker calling on him to require districts to adopt mandatory mask policies.

“Unfortunately, as the beginning of the school year nears and districts continue working out their reopening plans with parents and teachers, we are seeing disparate mask policies that are not leaving parents or educators confident in the safety of their district’s plans,” the letter said. “In reviewing individual reopening plans with educators in the field, it’s clear that numerous plans do not go far enough in their mask mandates to ensure the safety of students and educators.”

Some districts have a policy that masks need to be worn when walking around the campus but not in the classroom.

“While our district has adopted a ‘masks on the move’ policy, such as when students are in the hallways, in the classroom, masks will not be required,” said Diane Vanyo, president of the Argyle Teachers Association in the Capital Region, in the NYSUT letter. “We have raised numerous concerns with the district about this policy, which we fear will lead to students and teachers coming in and out of confined rooms where masks have not been worn all day. But with no movement on the local level, state action is exactly what we need to ensure we have the safest environment possible for our students and for our staff.”

Along with New York City, a handful of other districts such as Commack Union Free School District on Long Island, the Saranac Lake Central School District in the North Country Region, Guilderland Central School District in the Capital Region and the Victor Central School District near Rochester have adopted mandatory mask classroom policies, the NYSUT said.

“The governor has said — and we agree — that parents and educators must be confident in their school district’s reopening plan in order for this to work,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in the letter. “As we hear of disparate mask procedures and other issues in reopening plans across the state, it’s clear that the state must step in. Making masks mandatory at all times is one step toward helping address the reservations that still exist regarding reopening school buildings.”

A request for comment to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office was not immediately returned Thursday.

Update: a spokesperson for the state Department of Health emailed to say they are reviewing the letter, and that current guidance says face coverings are "strongly recommended to be worn by all individuals at all times but is required to be worn any time or place that individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing."

NY Colleges Must Go Remote For 2 Weeks If Coronavirus Cases Reach 100

3 p.m.: New York State is setting a new COVID-19 threshold that would require colleges and universities return to remote learning should a certain number of cases of the virus emerge, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday.

Under the new threshold, colleges and universities must shut down in-person instruction if coronavirus cases reach 100 or if the number of cases reaches 5 percent of on-site faculty and students, whichever is fewer, Cuomo announced during a press call from Albany.

If a campus reaches that number of cases, it must move to remote-learning for two weeks before reassessing with the local health department.

Cuomo announced the new threshold referencing what other states are facing as colleges reopen, like in North Carolina. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill the campus returned to all-remote courses for undergraduate students after coronavirus spread to 177 students out of hundreds tested just one week after the semester began, the Washington Post reported. Hundreds more were quarantined due to possible exposure.

As colleges bring thousands of students back to campus for a mix of in-person and remote learning, depending on the institution, the governor said clusters should be anticipated.

“We should anticipate clusters. When you have large congregations of people, anticipate a cluster,” Cuomo said. “Be prepared for it. Get ahead of it.”

In June, Cuomo first announced colleges and universities could return to “face to face” instruction the fall. This month, NYU brought back students from states under a mandatory quarantine order two weeks early to quarantine inside dorm rooms ahead of in-person classes — and students were left with shoddy food options during the lockdown inside their dorms.

Columbia University will begin virtual courses for undergraduate students after reversing an initial decision to bring back about 60 percent of students to campus. About 5 percent of City University of New York courses are expected to be face-to-face, but the faculty’s union wants the university to delay the move until ventilation issues are fully addressed.

A review of 3,000 higher education institutions by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Davidson College found that, nationally, about 62 percent of institutions are providing students with a mix of in person and online classes — which include a hybrid model, primarily online, or primarily in-person. As of August 22nd, about one-quarter remain to-be-determined.

People walk past a closed designer store on Madison Avenue in New York City.

CDC Director Walks Back Testing Guidance After Uproar

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has retreated from a controversial testing recommendation made by the agency earlier this week that said that those exposed to the virus but who did not show symptoms do not need to get a test.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Redfield said that testing "may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients," essentially backtracking from the guidance on the agency's website.

Redfield, however, underscored his remarks with a caveat, saying, "Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test."

Despite his remarks, as of Thursday morning, the recommendations on the CDC's website remained the same. It states that those who have been in close contact of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, "do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one."

The CDC had previously recommended that all close contacts of those infected get tested regardless of symptoms, estimating that 40% of people with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms.

The change, which was published on Monday, drew widespread alarm and criticism among experts. The uproar only intensified after reports from unnamed CDC officials who said the directive came from Trump administration officials. President Donald Trump has illogically argued that the country should test less so as to bring down the number of known cases.

Governor Andrew Cuomo labeled the new guidance "political propaganda" and said the state would not follow it.

On Thursday, he along with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut issued a joint statement criticizing the CDC's testing advice.

"This abrupt and ill-informed shift threatens the robust testing regimes our states have worked tirelessly to stand up with our federal partners," they said.