This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Wednesday, September 16th, 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. 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:

The state’s top education official said New York City is “not there yet” when it comes to reopening schools in five days.

In a discussion with Newsday on Wednesday, interim state education commissioner Betty Rosa said New York City officials are still grappling with issues like “the readiness of the buildings, whether it's ventilation, whether it's equipment, whether it's the custodial (supplies)...all the complicated issues that we know.”

“So I would say that, right now, they are exploring additional issues that they have to resolve before they make that final determination, but they're not there yet. They have set up the 21st, and there's still many, many concerns,” Rosa said of the official September 21st date to reopen schools for in-person learning.

Her comments came two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza reaffirmed that their plans were approved by the state.

”There was a process for all school systems to submit their plans to the State. The State did not request any major change in our plans. We've been approved,” de Blasio said at a news briefing on Monday.

“In all of our discussions with the state officials, various agencies of the State, New York City continues to have the most rigorous plan, not only in the State of New York, but across the country as well. So everything that needs to be signed off on has been signed off on and more,” Carranza said.

In the summer months before the 2020 school year, Governor Andrew Cuomo repeatedly said that all approval for school districts to reopen would come from the state — from his office based on local infection rates, and the state departments of health and education for the health and safety protocols and instructional plans submitted by each district.

New York City submitted its education plans to the state by the end of July. The state Education Department’s guidance said school districts should consider their plans “as approved” unless notified otherwise.

A request for comment from the DOE over how ready the public school system is was not immediately answered Wednesday. NYSED did not directly respond to questions about Rosa’s comments.

Cuomo Sets 1% Covid Testing Rate As Baseline For NY's Reopening

12:30 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said New York would use a 1% positive testing rate for coronavirus as a barometer for managing the state's reopening.

"That is a rate of spread that you can manage," Cuomo said, speaking at a press conference held aboard a boat off the coast of Long Island.

Likening the positivity rate to a speed limit, he said the state would keep loosening restrictions as long as the positivity rate did not exceed 1%.

As of Tuesday, the statewide positive testing rate was .87%. The state's positivity rate has not exceeded 1.25% since July 27th. New York has maintained its low infection rate while significantly expanding the amount of testing. Tuesday's numbers were based on 75,000 tests. At the outset of the crisis, the state was only able to perform 500 tests per day.

September marks a crucial month for New Yorkers. New York City public schools are set to reopen on Monday under a hybrid plan that allows students to return to the classroom between one to three times a week. On September 30th, city restaurants can resume indoor dining at 25% capacity.

Cuomo warned that New Yorkers should not expect a return to normalcy soon.

“New Yorkers want to get back to normal life," he said. “But we’re not yet at a point that we can get back to normal life. That’s just a fact. We still have to manage covid."

Experts have increasingly suggested that even with the introduction of a vaccine next year, life as most people remember it will not resume any time soon.

“The way that people are picturing it is that in January you have vaccines for the whole world and things will start going back to normal,” Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief science officer, told reporters Tuesday, according to the South China Morning Post.

She then said that “is not how it works,” explaining that immunizations will take course over a long period of time.

Similarly, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, told MSNBC last week, "If you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to Covid, it's going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021."

The views of scientists contradict the projections of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly said that the country is rounding the corner on the pandemic. During a town-hall-style event on Tuesday, he said a vaccine could be ready in “several weeks."

Fauci has said a vaccine could be approved at the end of the year at the earliest.

Trump also asserted that the virus "goes away" without a vaccine, arguing that people will develop herd immunity. Researchers have debated how large a share of the population needs to have been infected to achieve herd immunity, with estimates ranging between 50% to 70%.

Such a scenario would cost the country many more lives. The United States has reported more than 6.6 million virus infections. More than 196,000 Americans have died.