NEW YORK — New York continues to grapple with a holiday COVID-19 outbreak that shows no signs of easing.

The state recorded an overall positive test rate of just under 4% Saturday, the highest number recorded in more than six months.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state’s policy of targeting clusters was effective up to a point but conceded that New York is now facing a challenge of general “sustained COVID-19 spread” statewide.

With the virus spreading especially fast in the Buffalo area and hotspots on Staten Island and the northern suburbs, there were more than 6,000 cases recorded.

The caseload would likely have been even higher except for a relatively slower day of testing on Black Friday.

More than 3,200 are now hospitalized, more than at any time since May. Forty-two New Yorkers died of coronavirus, a toll that is also rising fast.

“It’s up to you, your neighborhood and your community to slow the spread,” Cuomo said. “It will take the vigilance of New Yorkers to get us through the holidays and through this pandemic.”

Public health experts have long warned that the holiday season would likely lead to a new surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths as American families gather.

Some have branded Thanksgiving as the “mother of all super-spreader events” because so many Americans get together to mark the holiday.

Most of the northern half of the nation is already experiencing crisis levels of hospitalizations from COVID-19 as temperatures dip and some leaders refuse to implement public health restrictions like mask mandates and limits on indoor gatherings.

Close to 2,000 Americans a day are dying from coronavirus and about 200,000 are becoming infected.

Vaccines hold promise of curbing the pandemic in 2021 but experts warn the death toll will soar before any improvement will come with widespread inoculations.

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Tribune Wire