This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, November 29th, 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. Schools are shut down. Certain parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island 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.

3:26 p.m.: New York State has officially inched above a 4% positivity rate, the highest rate since May, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.

Across the state, including micro-cluster zones, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 rate rose to 4.27% from 3.9%, the governor said. Of 157,000 coronavirus tests, 6,723 were positive.

"It was the highest since back in May," the governor said on a press call from Albany on Sunday. "If you look at New York relative only to New York, you see the numbers going up. Not as fast as in other states, but the numbers are going up."

Without the micro-clusters, New York has a 3.75% positivity rate. Overall, cluster zones had a 5.8% average positivity rate.

"This is a first wave—additional surge," Cuomo said, referencing Dr. Anthony Fauci's remarks on Sunday morning that a "surge upon a surge" of the virus may sweep across the country during the holiday season.

The governor hopes infection rates level off as a potential vaccine is rolled out.

Vaccine distribution is expected for some in December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's director, though widespread availability and distribution likely remain months away.

"I expect, as I've said before, we're going to see the rate going up through the holiday season," Cuomo said. "After New Year's Day, look a week or 10 days afterwards. Hopefully, the social activity slows at that point and the infection rate starts to level off and then you get to a vaccine, which is the answer ultimately."

"This is a new phase for COVID," Cuomo added. Details for the so-called "winter phase" in NY are to be revealed Monday and into this week, he said.

About 3,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized, 85 more patients than the day prior. Fifty-five people died from the virus on Saturday statewide.

Dr. Anthony Fauci participates in a briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on November 19th, 2020.

Dr. Anthony Fauci participates in a briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on November 19th, 2020.

Dr. Anthony Fauci participates in a briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on November 19th, 2020.
Chris Kleponis/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Close Bars And Keep Schools Open, Fauci Says

2 p.m.: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said localities should close bars and keep schools open when implementing restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"Close the bars and keep the schools open, is what we really say," Fauci said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning when asked how he'd advise the incoming Biden administration to keep schools open. "The default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school or get them back to school."

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged it isn't a "one size fits all" situation, but added that activities like socializing in bars and dining indoors at full capacity are known to cause "spread in a very, very profound way, in a robust way."

By keeping the community's infection rates down, schools can more safely stay open, he said.

"If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all," Fauci said.

In NYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio closed schools earlier this month sparking outrage from frustrated parents as the city's virus rate reached 3% under the de Blasio administration's calculations. On Sunday, de Blasio announced a phased reopening starting December 7th for lower grade schools, followed by children with disabilities in District 75 programs.

Bars that serve food and restaurants, including indoor dining, remain open in New York City with a host of restrictions set by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the state level.

In orange and red zones with enhanced coronavirus restrictions, indoor dining closes. The southern part of Staten Island is currently the city's only orange zone.

But the virus continues to spread in NYC.

As of November 27th, the city reported 1,636 new cases over a seven-day rolling average, nearly three times a threshold set by the city, de Blasio announced Sunday. There were 130 hospital admissions, with 48% confirmed as coronavirus patients. The city's positivity rate over a seven-day average rose to 3.9% in the city.