This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, November 8th, 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. Certain parts of Brooklyn and Queens are 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:

4:10 p.m.: The State University of New York announced a sweeping plan to return to in-person learning during the spring semester that includes cancelling spring break and requiring a seven-day quarantine period before students can come back to campus next year, the state's public university system announced Sunday.

The new requirements are a part of a spring semester plan to allow the university system to return to in-person instruction come February. Other new systemwide plans for the spring include mandatory testing upon return to campus and mandatory mask wearing in public even when there is social distancing.

"With COVID-19 surging nationwide, and with increased cases in New York, SUNY has devised a comprehensive plan to keep this virus at bay throughout the flu season and through the spring semester," said recently appointed SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, also an advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"This aggressive strategy gives us the best chance to return our students once again to classrooms in early 2021," Malatras added.

The in-person start of the spring semester has been pushed back to February 1st.

Spring break is cancelled to avoid virus risks associated with travel, according to the announcement from SUNY. Campuses can build in midweek "reading days" as an alternative, but should strongly discourage anyone from leaving their respective campuses.

To comply with the testing requirements, SUNY has built out a capacity to process about 200,000 COVID-19 tests a week. Students who can show a positive test within the past three months are exempt from the return test.

SUNY has already made plans to go remote at all its campuses after Thanksgiving break to prevent back-and-forth travel between students' family homes and campus. Cuomo has urged private universities to return to fully-remote learning after Thanksgiving like SUNY's policy.

SUNY's coronavirus case tracker shows the campuses have a .56% positivity rate over a seven-day average, well below the statewide average of 1.8% on Saturday.

Over the course of the semester, some campuses, including SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Oswego, and SUNY Cortland, have had to go back to remote instruction as infection rates rose. At Oneonta, hundreds of students tested positive, leading to a sudden shake-up in leadership after the campus president resigned.

Patients wait on line outside a COVID-19 testing site that provides priority testing for NYC Department of Education staff through NYC Health + Hospitals on Ft. Hamilton Parkway, in Borough Park on October 7th, 2020.

Patients wait on line outside a COVID-19 testing site that provides priority testing for NYC Department of Education staff through NYC Health + Hospitals on Ft. Hamilton Parkway, in Borough Park on October 7th, 2020.

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Patients wait on line outside a COVID-19 testing site that provides priority testing for NYC Department of Education staff through NYC Health + Hospitals on Ft. Hamilton Parkway, in Borough Park on October 7th, 2020.
John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock

Joe Biden Makes COVID-19 Top Priority Under Transition Plans

10:55 a.m.: President-Elect Joe Biden has set COVID-19 as a top priority for his transition into the White House as virus cases continue to rise nationwide.

Though President Donald Trump continues to falsely dispute the election results, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have rolled out four key priorities under their "build back better" plan: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change.

More than 235,000 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus and millions have lost their jobs due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. The Biden-Harris team plans to increase testing capacity, ramp up production of masks and personal protective equipment under the Defense Production Act, and call on governors to implement a mask mandate. Trump has been criticized throughout the pandemic for failing to substantially take on any of those measures.

The Biden-Harris administration transition comes as coronavirus cases continue rising nationwide, with more than 106,000 new cases, on average, each day in the past week, per the NY Times—a 57% increase from two weeks ago.

And even in NYC, where cases have remained relatively low for months, cases are steadily rising again. The average test positivity rate rose above 2% for the first time in more than four months last week.

The transition team will "focus on determining implementation options for policy, developing management agendas for federal agencies, and selecting personnel to serve in the administration," the Biden-Harris transition website reads.

Biden and Harris also want to establish funds for state and local governments, provide more resources to schools to adapt to COVID-19, and roll out a "restart package" to help businesses open safely. A vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan would total $25 billion in investments to ensure "it gets to every American, cost-free."

Biden would create a task force to address racial and ethnic disparities laid bare by coronavirus, with the intention of making a permanent infectious disease racial disparities task force.

He would also restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense—a council that the Trump administration did away with in 2018 before the pandemic.

On the ABC News show “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the country faces a “long two months” ahead before inauguration as the virus spreads. He raised concerns about the Trump administration’s vaccination plan—and what it would take to reverse an insufficient one. 

“If this administration rolls out a flawed vaccination plan it's going to be a problem because it's going to be very hard for the Biden administration to turn it back,” Cuomo said Sunday morning.