This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, December 10th, 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, as well as 25% indoor dining. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools began to partially reopen 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:

6 p.m. A vaccine advisory group for the Food and Drug Administration voted late Thursday to recommend authorizing Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which means that a final authorization is imminent and that shipments could arrive in New York as early as this weekend.

The 17-4 vote, which included one abstention, came after more than eight hours of comments and questions from the independent experts who serve on the panel and provide vaccine oversight for the FDA.

Under the federal government's plan, priority for the two-dose vaccine will go to "high risk" healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff. The vaccine would be approved for those ages 16 and up.

Should the Pfizer vaccine be cleared for distribution, its 11-month development period would represent the fastest in vaccine history.

New York City is already preparing to receive more than 450,000 vaccine doses this month. That includes the Moderna vaccine, which is set to undergo an advisory vote next week. Both vaccines will require two doses and cold storage. Pfizer's vaccine needs to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures, while the Moderna vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge.

City health officials have already been performing drills on vaccine distribution.

To learn about more about the city's vaccination plan, click here for Gothamist's latest story.

Jobless Claims Surge As Federal Aid Programs Near Expiration

The Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen in New York

More than 63,000 New York state residents applied for unemployment last week, a jump of nearly 40 percent from the previous week, amid a sharp uptick in jobless claims across the country that reflects the worsening pandemic's strain on the economy.

The federal Department of Labor reported an increase in claims in nearly every state, following a one-week decline that economists attributed to the Thanksgiving holiday. Seasonally adjusted first-time claims exceeded 853,000 nationwide, the highest total since September 19th. The figure far outpaces the 730,000 claims estimated by Dow Jones.

"While initial claims have see-sawed in the last two months, today’s report suggests claims are worsening rather than just stagnating," said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist with Glassdoor. "The surge in initial claims is especially concerning when claims are still above levels near the peak of the Great Recession."

Initial UI claims rose to 947,504 from 718,522, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims also eclipsed 400,000 for the first time since September, according to the report. The federal program, which covers freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed, could expire at the end of the month without Congressional action. Roughly 1.2 million New York state residents currently rely on the benefits.

Despite surging jobless claims, negotiations on a long-awaited economic relief package remain at an impasse in Washington. Senator Mitch McConnell and the Trump administration proposed packages this week that would include no additional federal unemployment benefits, undercutting a bipartisan framework that would restore federal weekly jobless payments to $300.

On Wednesday, Congressional leaders voted to approve a one-week stopgap that would give them until December 18th to hammer out a deal. If an agreement is not reached by that deadline, more than 13 million Americans could see their benefits expire the day after Christmas.

U.S. Advisory Panel Expected To Vote On Vaccine Today

In a critical step toward approving the first coronavirus vaccine in the United States, an advisory group to the Food and Drug Administration is meeting Thursday to review Pfizer's findings and vote on a recommendation.

The vote will then be followed by the FDA's decision to grant the vaccine emergency authorization, a move that would initiate the shipments of millions of doses across the United States.

The advisory panel called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee consists of outside experts who will offer their opinions on the vaccine.

The meeting, which is being livestreamed, began this morning at 9 a.m and is scheduled to run until 6 p.m.

Some have said that pending a favorable vote, the FDA could grant emergency authorization to the vaccine as early as late Thursday.

The anticipated approval of a life-saving vaccine could not come at a more urgent time. On Wednesday, the U.S. passed another grim milestone, crossing more than 3,000 deaths, the highest single-day toll since the pandemic began.

More than 280,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19 and more than 15 million have been infected, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York is expecting 170,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine, which could come as early as this weekend. Shots will be given first to nursing home residents and staff as well as "high-risk" healthcare workers.

Under a federal program, the state will enlist CVS and Walgreens to distribute doses in nursing homes. Cuomo said that he expects that process to begin by December 21st.

Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to be distributed in the West and is the most effective based on late-stage results, with data showing that it is 95% effective against preventing illness from COVID-19.

The United Kingdom on Tuesday became the first country to roll out the Pfizer vaccine. Following adverse reactions in two individuals, British regulators have warned that those with a history of significant allergic reactions should not take the vaccine.

Canada has also approved the vaccine and is set to begin its immunization rollout as early as next week.