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'We Don't Know What's Causing It': Northeast, Michigan Contributing To Rising US COVID Cases

BOSTON (CBS) - In a briefing Monday, former chief of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and current CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emotionally pleaded with Americans to continue to take safety precautions.

"I'm going to pause here, lose the script, and reflect on the current feeling I have of impending doom," she said. "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I'm scared."

President Biden doubled down on the plea, begging states to roll back reopening plans. "I'm reiterating my call for every governor, mayor, and local leader to reinstate the mask mandate," he explained. "Please, this is not politics."

A concerning contributor to the national rise in cases comes from Michigan and the entire Northeast, according to the CDC Director. CDC Data shows New Jersey has the highest cases per capita over the last week, followed by Rhode Island, New York, and Michigan. Dr. Walenskey called the trend "very concerning."

"I think that this virus never stops humbling us," Dr. Shira Doron, epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center told WBZ. "I don't think anybody can claim to know why right now the Northeast is doing badly, Michigan is doing terribly, and right now the rest of the country looks so good, even places that are really reopening aggressively."

Dr. Doron says COVID-19 variant spread could be to blame, but there isn't enough data to say so definitively. She explained to WBZ that it's surprising to see places like Texas with consistent case numbers despite the state's decision to remove its mask mandate.

"If we don't know what's causing it, how do we predict what's coming next?" Dr. Doron said. "It seems to me that we're at this real precipice where it could go either direction."

Dr. Doron explained that some factors of reopening -- like indoor weddings with dance floors -- concern her, while others -- like outdoor baseball games -- show little to no evidence of COVID-19 transmission. She encouraged people to take advantage of the nice weather and spend time at parks and beaches, while continuing to avoid indoor gatherings.

While there is no obvious explanation for rising cases in the Northeast, Dr. Doron says she still feels the region can vaccinate its way out of another surge. At the moment, vaccine shipments are allocated based on population size. "That's why I think at this point it really is key for the White House to be thinking about reallocating the distribution of the vaccine to parts of the country that are seeing rises in cases," she said.

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