This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, July 24th, 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, and professional sports (without fans). 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:

3 p.m. During a 30-minute CDC telebriefing today, Mitchell Zais, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education said that “the default” should be that “schools are fully open and operational in the fall.”

The CDC has cautioned that schools in areas that are hotspots should reconsider opening. Asked what should be considered hotspots given surges in most of the country, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield suggested looking at counties where the positivity rate was greater than 5 percent. 

“It is quite dynamic, it is changing,” he said, claiming that the majority of counties in the U.S. had positivity rates less than five percent. He also emphasized that measures must be taken to control the spread of the virus.

Asked about who authored Thursday’s main document outlining the benefits of in-person schooling, Redfield said he was not personally involved in the writing but that members of the Health and Human Services agency along with CDC officials worked on the document.

Zais did note, "In areas where there are hot spots, remote distancing learning might need to be adopted for a certain amount of time," but said, "The research and science continue to suggest that it is safer, healthier and better for students to be in school full time."

In an interview with the Washington Post, Dr. Anthony Fauci called the guidelines "sound," adding, “It depends on where you are. We live in a very large country that is geographically and demographically diverse and certainly different in the extent to which there is covid virus activity.”

Update: Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden shared the following in regards to schools reopening, noting few states were ready:

U.S. Surpasses 4 Million Virus Cases, CDC Urges Children Back To School

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new document emphasizing the importance of reopening schools, outlining the educational, physical and social harm that could come from prolonged school closures.

"It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement announcing the updates.

"School closures have disrupted normal ways of life for children and parents, and they have had negative health consequences on our youth. CDC is prepared to work with K-12 schools to safely reopen while protecting the most vulnerable."

The guidance, which was posted on the CDC's website late Thursday, provides support for the Trump administration's ongoing campaign to have states hold in-person instruction. But the new information is not a clarification of the original safety guidelines the agency published in May. Those recommendations included regular sanitization, staggering schedules, placing desks six feet apart, and mask wearing. The CDC did, however, publish a decision-making checklist for parents as well as mitigation guidance for schools.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump criticized the guidelines, saying they were "impractical" and too costly.

Redfield at first acknowledged that the agency would issue new recommendations but shortly afterwards pushed back on the notion that the guidelines would be relaxed in any way. He said that officials would merely provide more “reference documents” to guide school districts in their reopening plans.

But Redfield has been increasingly pushing a return to schools, echoing Trump's view.

In an appearance on Good Morning America, he said would "absolutely" be comfortable with sending his school-age grandchildren to school in the fall, with the exception of one grandchild who has a medical condition. He reiterated that statement on Twitter.

Many large school districts, including Los Angeles, have opted to begin the school year with online only classes. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a plan to hold a hybrid of online and in-person instruction but said that a final decision would be made in concert with state officials in August.

The CDC's latest guidance is a point by point scientific summary on the merits of in-person school attendance.

"The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus," the document reads.

"Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets—our children—while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families."

But as many experts have pointed out, most of the U.S. is seeing a rising number of cases. On Thursday, the country surpassed four million infections, according to several tallies, including one by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. also recorded at least 1,100 deaths from the virus, the third consecutive day it has reached the grim milestone.

On Twitter, policy and science experts faulted the CDC's new guidance, calling it "sad" and thin on the health and safety details that educators in areas with high transmissions need to know.