This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, January 11th, 2021. 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 December 14th. After being shut 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:

With over 22.4 million coronavirus cases and nearly 375,000 related deaths, the United States continues to be hit hard by the pandemic—just as a new, more contagious variant is being detected in multiple states. And, as with many things related to COVID-19, the U.S. is lagging in how it tracks the new variant.

Cases are surging around the country. According to the NY Times, "The country reported 300,594 new cases on Friday and more than 4,100 deaths on Thursday, both single-day records." Hospitals in southern California are buckling under the strain of a surge of COVID-19 patients. A nurse in Ventura County told the Ventura County Star that she saw three people die in an hour, "We've never seen this much death before. I've been in health care for 22 years, and I've never been scared. Right now, I am ... I fear for my children."

The new B117 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has many more mutations than usually found in viruses (which typically mutate). While it is not considered to be more serious or deadly than the current strain, it's believed to be at least 50% more transmissible—which would lead to more cases and more hospitalizations.

As of the end of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are 63 cases in the United States linked to the B117 variant, but that number is artificially low because most cases are not genetically sequenced to look for variants.

A study from GISAID, which has been sharing data, found that the U.S. is 61st in the world in terms of tracking the variant. CNN reports that "countries with far fewer resources, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Suriname, process samples more quickly than the United States does."

Apparently the median length of time to sequence a sample from someone who has the virus is 85 days (from sample collection to sharing it on GISAID), prompting virologist Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, to call it "pathetic... By the time you wait (85) days, a sequence can go from being a rare variant to being half of the circulating virus in a population."

There is no coordinated federal effort for genomic sequencing, and the U.S. has, according to GISAID's data, only sequenced around 70,000 cases, or about 0.3% of all coronavirus cases. In New York, sequencing is currently being conducted at the state's Wadsworth Laboratory. State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said last week, "It takes 44 hours or so to do the genome testing...We do this a lot quicker and a lot more efficiently than the federal government... We're moving very quickly on this."

There are now four known cases with the B117 variant in New York; three in Saratoga Springs and one on Long Island.