Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference at...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference at his Manhattan offices on Wednesday. Credit: Pool / Brendan McDermid via AP

The state’s coronavirus positivity rate continued to creep upward on Friday, as 76 more New Yorkers died of COVID-19 and nearly 4,600 were hospitalized with the disease, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office reported Saturday.

The percentage of coronavirus tests that were positive over the past seven days rose to 3.41%, up from 3.37% on Thursday.

The positivity rate had been falling since its post-holiday peak in early January, but it stopped dropping in late February, remaining between 3.1% and 3.2% through most of March before ticking up again.

Long Island has been among the state’s 10 regions with the highest positivity rates for months, with the seven-day rate on Friday at 4.31%, down from 4.34% and second only to the mid-Hudson region.

Health experts typically focus on the seven-day rates, because they smooth out daily anomalies. The one-day positivity rate on Friday was 3.15%, up from 3.01% on Thursday.

"New Yorkers should remember the positivity rate is a function of what they do to slow the spread," Cuomo said in a statement. "Washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing are critical tools to help us fight the virus."

For weeks, New York has consistently been among the five states with the most new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to CovidActNow, a nonprofit website run by epidemiologists and other experts.

COVID-19 tests are administered at a rapid testing facility set...

COVID-19 tests are administered at a rapid testing facility set up at the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck on Nov. 8, 2020. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Experts have warned that the positivity numbers mask the rising risk for unvaccinated New Yorkers, and that the rate would be rising more quickly if it hadn’t been for the millions of vaccinated residents.

More than 220,000 New Yorkers were inoculated against COVID-19 in the 24 hours ending at 11 a.m. Saturday, the governor’s office said.

Nearly 29% of the state’s residents — more than 5.7 million people — have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 15.8% — nearly 3.2 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

More than a third of Nassau County residents have received at least one dose, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement.

"Nassau will continue doing everything possible to ensure residents have access to the vaccine as soon as they become eligible," she said.

As vaccinations continue, thousands of New Yorkers remain in hospitals with COVID-19.

Hospitalization levels have fluctuated between 4,500 and 4,700 for more than two weeks, after a steep drop from mid-January. On Friday, there were 4,578 people hospitalized with COVID-19, down 25 patients from Thursday. Nearly 900 were in intensive care, and 552 were on ventilators.

The daily death toll from the virus continues at far higher levels than during the summer and early fall, when the fatalities were in the single digits.

Among the 76 residents statewide who died of COVID-19 on Friday, eight lived in Suffolk County and three in Nassau.

Of the 8,201 people whose coronavirus test results came back positive on Friday, 711 were in Suffolk and 614 were in Nassau.

The positivity rate is rising as the state continues relaxing restrictions, a move that some health experts have criticized, especially with highly contagious virus variants spreading.

Indoor family entertainment centers opened Friday at 25% capacity, with face masks and social distancing required.

Starting Thursday, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field can host baseball games at up to 20% capacity. Also Thursday, outdoor sports and performing arts venues that fit 2,500 or more people can reopen at 20% capacity, and indoor sports venues of that size at 10%. Proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result will be required.

On Friday, smaller arts and entertainment venues can open at 33% capacity, with up to 150 guests inside and 500 outside if attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative test result.

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Who qualifies for COVID-19 shots?

The State of New York has expended its eligibility list for vaccines against COVID-19 several times, expanding the groups of people included in the phases. This is a summary of the eligible groups. The following are the qualifying categories, as revised on March 29.

Group in Phase 1A

The state said about 2.1 million state residents belong in this group, including:

  • Health care workers at hospitals who interact with patients.
  • Residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Dentists, psychologists and others deemed health care workers with direct contact with patients.
  • Employees of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • EMT volunteers and staff.
  • Coroners, medical examiners, some funeral workers.
  • Staff and residents of state facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental health care and addiction services.
  • Employees at urgent care centers.
  • Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
  • Staff at ambulatory centers.
  • Home care and hospice workers.
  • Residents and staff at other congregate care facilities.

Group in Phase 1B

The state estimated about 3.2 million residents belong in this group, including:

  • People 75 years of age and older.
  • Teachers and education workers, including in-person college instructors, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, support staff, contractors in schools and bus drivers.
  • First responders, including police; firefighters; state police; sheriff’s offices; county, town and village police departments, and other law enforcement offices.
  • Public safety workers, including dispatchers and technicians.
  • Public transit workers, including airport, railroad, subway, bus, ferry and Port Authority employees.
  • Corrections officers.
  • Other sworn and civilian personnel, such as court and peace officers.
  • Grocery store workers dealing with the public.
  • Individuals living in homeless shelters.

Following federal recommendations:

Added at the discretion of local governments:

  • Taxi drivers.
  • Restaurant workers.
  • Residents of facilities for developmentally disabled people.
  • Hotel workers who interact with the public.

Other expansions of eligibility:

  • State residents age 60 and older (Since March 10, 2021).
  • “Public-facing” government and public employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Workers for not-for-profit organizations who provide “public-facing” services (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Building service workers who are “public-facing” employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • State residents age 50 and older (Since March 23, 2021).

Since March 30, 2021:

Since April 6, 2021:

SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.

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