This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Tuesday, December 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. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting Monday, December 14th. After beingshut 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.

Here's the latest:

5:30 p.m. The first known infection of the British COVID-19 variant in the United States has been identified in a Colorado man in his twenties, according to Colorado officials.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon.

The infected man was said to have no travel history. He is currently in isolation in Elbert County, which lies about 50 miles southeast of Denver.

“The individual has no close contacts identified so far but public health officials are working to identify other potential cases and contacts through contact tracing interviews,” Polis said.

Since being discovered in mid-September, the new variant has been rapidly spreading in the United Kingdom, forcing the lockdown of most of that country's southern region. Early studies indicate that the variant could be as much as 70% more transmissible. There is no evidence, however, that the variant results in more severe illness.

As of Tuesday, the variant has been found in at least 17 countries outside of the U.K.

Many top infectious disease experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the variant was already likely in the United States and that Americans should double down on social distancing and mask wearing.

“I’m not surprised,” Fauci told the Washington Post. “I think we have to keep an eye on it, and we have to take it seriously. We obviously take any kind of mutation that might have a functional significance seriously. But I don’t think we know enough about it to make any definitive statements, except to follow it carefully and study it carefully.”

The U.S. is behind the U.K. when it comes to performing genomic sequencing, which allows scientists to identify variants and mutations in the virus.

New York is currently among the states with labs trying to sequence coronavirus samples in an attempt to confirm the presence of the variant here.

As of Monday, all travelers from the U.K., including American citizens, must show proof of a negative coronavirus test upon entering the U.S.

67K People In NYC Have Gotten COVID-19 Vaccine

Mayor Bill de Blasio on December 29th, 2020.

Mayor's Office YouTube

12:17 p.m.: A total of 67,116 people have been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.

On one day—December 23rd—there were 12,515 people vaccinated, the highest so far since the coronavirus vaccine started being administered in NYC, the mayor said.

"This is going to be, without question, the largest vaccination effort in the history of New York City," de Blasio said during a press briefing on Monday.

The upcoming phases of the vaccine rollout and the timeline for distributing them depend on supplies and how the state determines the next priority groups.

"The fact is, there has been real care getting used to this vaccine and figuring out the best way to implement it," de Blasio said. "But I want to see this vaccine campaign take off. I really do. And I think we're going to see that more in the coming days."

De Blasio said those at the greatest risk—nursing home residents and staff and frontline healthcare workers—are the top priority for vaccines.

But "in a matter of weeks," the city would be able to start reaching older New Yorkers. It is not clear how those groups would be defined.

The CDC advisory committee on immunization practices recently voted to recommend "phase 1b" of priority groups should include frontline essential workers and people 75 years and older. The state takes that guidance to determine its own prioritization levels.

The NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said the city is awaiting state guidelines on specifics for the additional groups of at-risk individuals. The city has also been working to ensure the administration of the vaccine is equitable.

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced priority groups would be expanded to include urgent care center employees, anyone administering vaccines, as well as residents of congregate facilities with the Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

Vaccinations will continue for high-risk hospital workers, health centers, EMS, coroners, medical examiners, funeral works, and residents and staff of facilities with the Offices of People with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health, according to Cuomo.

Ambulatory care workers and public-facing public health workers would be added next week, the governor's office announced Monday.

The mayor's office announced next week's rollout would also include people at dialysis centers.

In New York City, FDNY EMS workers began getting vaccines last week, and FDNY firefighters were expected to get their first doses on Tuesday. An earlier survey found more than half of firefighters would not get the vaccine.

When asked about the survey, the mayor said Monday the vaccine would remain voluntary for now, but he anticipates more people will become open to getting the vaccine as more people take it.

In NYC, the positive test rate rose to 7.45% over a seven day rolling average. Hospitalizations dropped to 182 patients, though the hospitalization admission rate was 3.93 out of 100,000 people—higher than the 2 out of 100,000 person threshold set by the mayor on a rolling seven day average. De Blasio cautioned the numbers are unusual due to changes in testing patterns during the holidays.

A health care worker at NYU Langone hospital gets vaccinated earlier this month.

Fauci Says Vaccine Rollout Numbers Are "Below Where We Want To Be"

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, acknowledged on Tuesday that the U.S. has fallen way short of its coronavirus vaccination goals. After announcing a plan to deliver first shots to 20 million people by the end of December, only 2.1 million people have been vaccinated to date.

All told, the federal government has delivered more than 11.4 million doses to states, territories and federal agencies.

“We certainly are not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December,” Fauci said, during an interview on CNN. “We are below where we want to be.”

Last week, Gen. Gustave Perna, the head of Operation Warp Speed, made an astonishing admission, faulting himself for the confusions arising over the delays and shortfalls in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 14 states. Several governors had complained about the initial rollout, saying they received fewer vaccines than promised. New Jersey's allocation this month was reduced by 20%.

“It was my fault,” Perna said at a White House event. “It was a planning error, and I am responsible.”

Public health experts have likened the problems with the vaccine rollout to the lack of a national pandemic response.

"We're learning again we can't fight pandemic with every state on its own," tweeted Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, on Monday.

He said the ramp up should improve following the passage of a $900 billion stimulus package that includes state funding for vaccine distribution.

New York state currently leads the country in vaccinations, with 140,000 residents having been administered the first dose as of Monday. In accordance with federal recommendations, hospital workers and nursing home residents and staff are being vaccinated first, although an Orange County-based health care facility is being investigated for violating the state's distribution guidelines.

New York has also begun vaccinating EMS workers, coroners, medical examiners, funeral workers and residents and staff of Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Mental Health facilities.

The massive vaccination efforts comes as the country faces dramatic increases in cases and hospitalizations.

Fauci and other experts have warned about a post-holiday increase resulting from gatherings.

Federal transportation authorities said that the number of travelers screened at U.S. airports on Sunday rose to nearly 1.3 million people, the highest level since March 15.

“You just have to assume it’s going to get worse,” Fauci said.