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Coronavirus Clusters Likely A Contributing Factor To Cases Creeping Up In Mass.

BOSTON (CBS) - After five consecutive days with coronavirus numbers around 300 cases, the percent of positive tests went above two percent over the weekend - breaking the threshold for the first time since mid-June.

The milestone leaving some to wonder whether the state should scale back its reopening. But Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said the state's move into phase 3 didn't drive that trend.

"We're seeing the number of cases increase as well as our positive testing. And we've seen a number of clusters over the past few weeks," Sudders said Friday.

State officials are now urging residents remain vigilant, and continue to wear their masks, in an effort to avoid a resurgence. "We have the ability to do it in Massachusetts, because we've demonstrated that ability to drive it down," said Sudders.

A look back at the state dashboard shows the consistent drop in confirmed cases through the stages of re-opening. On May 18, the weekly average of positive tests was 9.7 percent. By mid-July, that number dipped as low as 1.7 percent, but it has since slowly crept back up.

"It's very important to look at the hospitalization rates and death rates. We haven't seen those rise yet. But we do know, from our prior experience, that hospitalizations lag behind cases and deaths lag behind hospitalizations," said Dr. Shira Doron, an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center. "It's reassuring we don't see that now. But that doesn't mean we won't see it in a couple of weeks."

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker said public health officials are investigating at least eight coronavirus clusters in Massachusetts. One gathering was almost four times bigger than the current state limit for indoor spaces, which stands at 25. Dr. Doron says meeting in large groups drives the spread.

"The governor feels that it's not the reopening that's causing the rise, that it's individual behavior events, super spreader events," Doron said. "We are not allowed to have large gatherings, we are not allowed to congregate together in close quarters, without our faces being covered, we should not do that."

She also says we should be selective when it comes to travel, and keep our guard up as we inch closer to the fall.

"At this time, with our numbers being so good here in Massachusetts, we really have to think twice, three times, and four times, before traveling to an area with widespread transmission of the virus," Doron said. "One of the key interventions has been the governor's travel order. We hope that will have an impact and keep the numbers down."

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