This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, January 31st, 2021. 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. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting December 14th, but it's slated to return with limited capacity on Valentine's Day. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools partially reopened on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain 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.

4:41 p.m.: A case of the COVID-19 variant from South Africa was found in the Baltimore area in Maryland—another sign that different strains of the virus are spreading through the U.S. while the nation is simultaneously trying to halt the pandemic with vaccines.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Saturday that a Maryland resident became sick with the new variant, likely from "community transmission." The man had not traveled outside the U.S.

"State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state," Hogan said in a statement released Saturday. "We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant."

The Maryland case is the third in the country, with two others tracked in South Carolina. Maryland has also tracked seven cases of the U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7.

New York state has become a hotspot for the U.K. variant, with 44 cases of it reported in the state, but no variants from Brazil and South Africa have been found. Genome sequencing to track variants is far below the number of total COVID-19 cases confirmed in New York each week. The Wall Street Journal reports the city-contracted Pandemic Response Lab will start sequencing 2,000 sample of coronavirus a week in mid-February.

New York's Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said the state is currently sequencing around 700 specimens a week. Around 3,000 specimens have been tested since December 23rd.

"I don't want to be Governor Downer, but I don't want to be anything other than frank and candid with the people of the state," Cuomo said during a press call on Sunday. "Today's news is very good but keep an eye on these U.K. variants and the other variants—and all of them suggest more diligence."

A Vaccine Site In Brooklyn Was Nearly Deserted On Saturday

9:53 a.m.: A COVID-19 vaccine site at a Coney Island high school was severely under-utilized on Saturday, according to a video shared by Councilmember Mark Treyger.

The video shows Lincoln High School staffed with workers milling about waiting to check-in people and administer the vaccine, with only one person seen getting an injection.

"This is crazy," said the person filming the video.

Treyger wrote: "This is unacceptable."

"Clearly we have logistical problems locally that still haven’t been solved," East Village Councilmember Carlina Rivera added.

Department of Health spokesman Patrick Gallahue said in a tweet that the city DOH hubs were open for rescheduled appointments that had to be pushed back after thousands were cancelled due to a lack of supplies.

"Supply remains limited and we will use every last dose at Lincoln through the weekend," Gallahue wrote. When asked for more information, he reiterated that "every last dose" will be used this weekend.

There were doses available beyond the scheduled appointments alone, according to the NY Post. After Treyger tweeted the video, older New Yorkers lined up on Saturday afternoon to see if they could get vaccinated without an appointment, eventually getting vaccinated after a worker confirmed there were ample doses, the Post reports.

Gallahue said a standby list is only used if there are available doses or appointments. Staff can quickly reach out to eligible New Yorkers to use the doses, he said.

The near-empty site was a visual reminder of the messy vaccine distribution so far, about seven weeks into the rollout. Vaccine-seekers face a patchwork of online systems to get an appointment, sometimes having to go through the process a second time to secure their second shot appointment. Various ad-hoc efforts have popped up looking to help eligible New Yorkers find vaccination appointments when the official systems aren't working.

Inconsistent supplies week-to-week have made planning more difficult. In a particularly chaotic night, a swarm of people arrived to Brooklyn Army Terminal earlier this month after word of leftover doses rapidly spread on social media. The site later had to close because it ran out of doses.

Around 53,000 first shot doses remain available in NYC, with another 313,000 set aside for people's second doses, as of Sunday morning, according to the city's vaccine tracker. NYC has administered 800,508 doses in total since December 14th, about 200,000 short of Mayor Bill de Blasio's 1 million doses goal.