This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Wednesday, December 23rd, 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:

4:35 p.m.: Vaccinations began Wednesday for the fire department's EMS workers who have been on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19.

"The vaccination will bring ease to our workers, which are known as New York City's street workers," said Oren Barzilay, the president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors union, Local 2507.

The important milestone in the fight against the pandemic arrived a day after a 27-year veteran of the FDNY died from the virus.

Evelyn Ford, 58 was an EMT serving as a citywide dispatcher before she died, becoming the 12th FDNY member to succumb to the virus. She lived on Long Island and was the mother of four children.

"For nearly three decades, EMT Ford was a member of the busiest and best Emergency Medical Service in the world," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.

Barzilay added, "Her passing is a tragedy—I personally knew her myself and I worked with her for over 10 years."

"In one way, it’s supposed to be a great day that we’re finally gonna beat this thing. And at the same time, we hear this news of one of our colleagues has fallen for this disease," Barzilay said. "It pushes you down."

Among about 17,000 FDNY members, more than 5,800 have gotten the virus.

About 600 people are currently taking sick time for coronavirus, according to Commissioner Nigro.

About 450 FDNY members a day are expected to be inoculated at three sites, with EMTs and paramedics getting the vaccine first. They will also be administering it to their colleagues at the three sites in Brooklyn, Queens, and Randall's Island.

"They stepped up, and although they did all the 911 response from that time, now they're even going a step further by providing the inoculation. Our paramedics are now doing the vaccinations," Barzilay said.

Vaccinations began Wednesday for FDNY EMS workers, and firefighters are expected to start getting the first dose of the two-shot vaccine on Tuesday. The vaccine is not mandatory, but the FDNY is strongly encouraging members to get vaccinated.

A girl wearing a costume seen at the 2021 numerals in Times Square. Many holiday events have been cancelled or adjusted with additional safety measures due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

NYC Threatens To Fine U.K. Visitors Who Defy Quarantine

The New York City Sheriff's Office plans to visit and check-in with travelers from the United Kingdom in an effort to ensure that they are following the state's quarantine rules, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.

City health officials have expressed a concern about a new variant of the coronavirus that has been identified in the U.K. and which has spurred officials there to enact lockdowns across much of the country. Two cases of another variant from South Africa was also recently discovered in Britain. Early findings suggest both variants are more transmissible.

The variant has not been discovered in the United States yet, but New York City has commenced a genetic sequencing program to identify the variant through test samples processed at the city's Pandemic Response Lab.

De Blasio says sheriff deputies will visit the home or hotel of every single traveler coming from the U.K.

"We cannot take chances with anyone that travels, particularly anyone coming in from the U.K.," de Blasio said during his morning press briefing.

Under the state's rules, travelers from most places must quarantine for two weeks. They can also serve a shorter period of quarantine by submitting to the state's "test out" option.

Any traveler found violating the quarantine order is subject to a $1,000 fine. Those who continue to disobey the rule will be fined an additional $1,000 for each day of the violation.

Similar to previous holiday periods, the sheriff deputies will be stationed at major travel hubs—airports, train stations, bus depots, and bridge crossings—to inform travelers about the state's quarantine rule and provide them with information on available services.

To date, the Sheriff's Office has stopped 10,000 drivers at checkpoints to disseminate information as part of the city's enforcement and public awareness campaign, the mayor said.