This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Saturday, December 5th, 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, but will reopen on December 7th to 3K-5th grade students. Certain parts of Staten Island under a zoned shutdown.

Get answers to questions you may have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more aboutNYC 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:

The statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has reached 5%, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.

The state’s metric includes 6.17% positivity for COVID-19 tests in the state’s focus zone areas where rates are highest, and 4.59% in the rest of the state. In New York City, the rate was 3.99%

Staten Island, the last orange zone in the city, had a 7.58% seven-day rolling average of positive tests. Brooklyn’s yellow zone in the south of the borough hit an 8.53% seven-day rolling average.

The state had 69 deaths Friday, including 14 in New York City -- six people in Manhattan, four people in Staten Island, one person in the Bronx, two people in Brooklyn and one person in Queens. The number of COVID-19 deaths in the city has steadily risen from early November, when the death rate had been in the single digits.

There were 54,956 test results from the hotspot areas reported Friday with 3,389 positives. Outside the hotspot areas, 160,445 test results were reported with 7,372 positives. Statewide, the number of hospitalized patients increased by 96 people for a total of 4,318 patients, while there were 621 newly admitted patients. Of those, 30 more patients were in intensive care units for a total of 825, with 435 patients intubated - an increase of 32 patients.

"I understand New Yorkers may be feeling COVID fatigue, especially now that we have entered the holiday season and the first batch of vaccines is a couple weeks away, but if there was ever a time to double down and be vigilant, it's now," Cuomo said in a press release Saturday. "We continue to implement our data-driven winter plan and we are laser focused on making sure New York's hospitals have enough capacity.”

Cuomo said the rise in cases are coming from a “troubling” new trend “where the majority of cases are traced to households and private gatherings.”

“The federal government continues to overlook the Black, brown, and poor communities in its vaccine plan and hasn't provided the funding necessary for the states to administer it. These are real problems, and if left unaddressed they could undermine the effectiveness of the entire program,” he added. “While we won't stop fighting until these problems are addressed, New Yorkers need to do their part too. They already did the best job in the country the first time around, going from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest, and I have no doubt if we continue to stay smart, we will get through this together — stronger, tougher and more loving than before."

Governor Andrew Cuomo at a news conference on December 3rd.

In Op-Ed, Cuomo Credits Schools For Keeping COVID-19 Rates Low

As COVID-19 rates continue climbing in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a ringing endorsement of the safety of schools during the pandemic, saying infection rates for COVID-19 inside schools are a lot lower than the surrounding communities.

In an op-Ed Cuomo penned on Saturday, and published in Newsday, the governor praised schools across the state for demonstrating it can keep infection rates low so long as students and faculty adhere public health guidelines.

"As any parent knows, schools are usually places where illnesses spread easily," Cuomo wrote. "But in the case of COVID, the safest place in the community is truly the school. How can that be? Because schools are following basic rules. The students and teachers wear masks. They practice social distancing. They frequently wash their hands. Many of the students are in fact quite excited and very serious about doing their part to keep their friends and families safe."

Cuomo's op-Ed comes two days before 190,000 New York City students head back to the classroom, two and a half weeks after the city's average seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 hit 3%, the trigger to close schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered schools to reopen on December 7th with the promise of increased testing of school communities through the randomized testing program that's gone from monthly to weekly.

New York City's positivity rate now stands at 5%, according to numbers released by the city Health Department Saturday. New York State reported

Cuomo has long pivoted to the comfort level of parents and educators in determining whether schools are safe to re-enter during the pandemic. Initially, Cuomo expressed skepticism that New York City could pull off keeping schools safe until testing began to show rates inside schools were lower than the outside community. In late October, just as rates began to tick up in New York City, Cuomo suggested de Blasio reconsider a full closure of the school system, but one that does so on a school by school basis.

"All that is required to control its spread is for people to be smart and disciplined," Cuomo wrote. "COVID is potent, but it has no power until it enters a person's body. Maintaining social distancing and wearing masks keeps that from happening. We know bars, restaurants, and large gatherings are problematic. Now social behavior has changed, and more people are gathering in smaller groups in homes. This has become the largest spreader. Home, family, friends seem safe, but not from COVID."

Midtown Manhattan

CDC Recommends Universal Mask Wearing, Even Inside Vulnerable Homes

10:50 a.m.: As the United States seems to set new records with COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations every day, with 14,385,385 total cases—and nearly a year after the first cases were reported—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging for the first time that people should wear masks consistently and correctly. This means even inside the house if someone has a "known or possible exposure" to the virus.

The recommendation is part of a new list of nine other measures released on Friday that should be taken to "address high levels of community transmission" of COVID-19. Those include "Physical distancing and limiting contacts"; "Avoid nonessential indoor spaces and crowded outdoor settings"; "Prompt case investigation and contact tracing to identify, quarantine, and test close contacts"; "Increased testing, diagnosis, and isolation"; "Safeguarding persons most at risk for severe illness or death"; "Protecting essential workers"; "Widespread availability and coverage with effective vaccines"; "Increased room air ventilation, enhanced hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection"; and "Postponing travel."

Further, the CDC recommended that schools, kindergarten through high school, be the "last settings to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to reopen when they can do so safely."

The NY Times characterized the CDC's directive as using its "most forceful language yet," and it "reflected deep concern at the agency that the pandemic is spiraling further out of control and that many hospitals are reaching a breaking point, potentially disrupting health care across the country."

Just last month, the CDC officially said that masks can also protect mask wearers, as well as those around them, from catching the virus through respiratory droplets. (Previously, masks were thought to mostly prevent the wearers, especially asymptomatic ones, from spreading aerosols.) The agency said in its new guidance that state and local authorities should "Issue policies or directives mandating universal use of face masks in indoor (nonhousehold) settings" as plan on distributing masks if needed.

There are currently thirteen states that do not have statewide mask mandates.

The guidance also comes seven weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President. He, unlike President Donald Trump, has worn masks throughout his campaign and held virtual rallies, versus in-person ones. More recently, he reiterated that he will ask Americans to wear masks for three months when he becomes president.

"I’m going to ask people to commit for 100 days to wear a mask," he said on Friday.

In its guidance, the CDC concluded, "No single strategy can control the pandemic; rather, a multipronged approach using all available evidence-based strategies at the individual and community levels can break transmission chains and address high levels of community transmission; reduce related illnesses, long-term sequelae, and deaths; and mitigate the pandemic’s economic impact [...] Similarly, full implementation of public health prevention strategies can help preserve the functioning of essential businesses that supply food to the population, contribute to the health protection of communities and individual persons, and fuel economic recovery. Full implementation of and adherence to these strategies will save lives."