This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, September 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, museums, and gyms. 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:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a rapid testing design competition in New York on Thursday, intended to "accelerate the development and deployment of rapid COVID tests." While the city does have rapid testing sites, there are only a handful serving all five boroughs, and the slots fill up quickly. De Blasio's competition aims to develop test that can give results in minutes, at home or at a point-of-care facility.

Speaking to the press outside the Pandemic Response Lab inside of the Alexandria Center for Life Science, de Blasio said that "anything that improves testing improves the willingness of people to get tested. I think there's been a legitimate feeling that folks got discouraged if it took too long for the results to come back... it has to come back fast for people to want to do it."

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) launched the Pandemic Response Lab last week. The facility is "dedicated to processing COVID-19 tests within 24-48 hours for NYC Health + Hospitals," and aims to scale up to be able to process 20,000 tests per day by November. Currently, many New Yorkers are still seeing long waits for test results, and throughout the pandemic those waits have been up to 14 days or more.

City Health Commissioner Dave A. Chokshi said the majority of COVID-19 tests in the city are currently coming back within 48 hours, but tests administered at urgent care centers like CityMD are "generally" taking four days to deliver results.

The NYCEDC-hosted competition for rapid testing innovation will focus on the following criteria: "Ease of use; the delivery of quick and accurate results; scalability and cost; and clarity of communication with patients and health agencies." The city hopes to complete this process in the next several months. More information can be found here.

United States President Donald Trump makes final remarks at the end of his news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

United States President Donald Trump makes final remarks at the end of his news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

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United States President Donald Trump makes final remarks at the end of his news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
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Trump Threatens To Reject Stricter FDA Rules For Vaccine Approval

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he may override proposed federal regulations to set a high bar for emergency approval of a coronavirus vaccine.

“That has to be approved by the White House,” he said during a press briefing at the White House.

“We may or may not approve it," he added.

The president, who has frequently fanned theories of a "deep state" of government officials plotting against him, criticized the Food and Drug Administration's plan for tougher standards, saying that it “sounds like a political move.”

Trump has repeatedly suggested that a vaccine could be approved before the November 3rd presidential election, a timeline that his own health officials have rejected as too ambitious. There are currently four vaccine candidates undergoing a clinical stage 3 trial, a large-scale study involving tens of thousands of participants, which is considered the final step in determining whether a vaccine is safe and effective. Most experts, including the nation's top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that a vaccine could be approved by the end of the year.

“When you have great companies coming up with these vaccines, why would they [the FDA] have to be, you know, adding great length to the process? We want to have people not get sick," he said. “I don’t see why it should be delayed further."

It is not clear that the White House has authority over the FDA's plan. CNN reported that the FDA "respectfully" declined to comment on Trump's remarks. But an unnamed FDA official told the network that agency guidelines generally do go through the White House.

Public health experts responded critically to the president's attempt to control the vaccine approval process.

"This is how you ruin a multi billion dollar vaccine program," tweeted Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University.

News this week that the FDA was planning to impose a stricter review process for any potential vaccine was widely praised by health experts. Polls suggest that a significant portion of Americans may refuse to get vaccinated, especially if they lack confidence in vaccine that is perceived as rushed in development. A recent poll from the Pew Research Center showed that the number of Americans who are willing to get vaccinated for coronavirus once a vaccine is approved has plummeted from earlier in the crisis, from 72% in May to 51% this month.

Earlier this week, a poll conducted by ABC News found that fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) Americans have "a great deal of confidence in Trump to confirm vaccine effectiveness."