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Northeastern University Researcher Suggests Massachusetts Returns To Phase 2

BOSTON (CBS) -- The seven-day weighted average of the positive test rate for coronavirus in Massachusetts is now at 2.2%, the highest it's been since June. The numbers are enough for Northeastern University assistant professor and Director of Emergent Epidemics Lab Samuel Scarpino to think the state should return to Phase 2.

"We've seen for the past week-to-10 days that the COVID numbers in Massachusetts have been heading in the wrong direction," Scarpino told WBZ-TV.

"I think there are two pieces of what's going on. The first is that certainly in Phase 3 there were some larger venues that opened up, gyms, certain aspects of casino floors, there were also some changes to the maximum of the occupancy limits especially with outdoor venues. But I also think that it communicates to the public a sense of safety that just isn't there with respect to COVID-19."

He highlighted the risk of a resurgence and the need to take action now since it can take weeks to see the effects of any changes.

"By the time we realize that it's getting out of control as we see the ICU numbers tick up, as we see the cases even higher than they are now, it will essentially be too late to take actions like rolling back to Phase 2, we may have to do something that's even more intensive, which I personally would like to avoid if at all possible."

Scarpino also said it's important to have a better understanding of where the increase in cases is coming from. Knowing whether the cases are from house parties and gatherings or from businesses, like gyms and indoor dining, can allow the state to arrange a new hybrid phase between 2 and 3. It would be "targeted action to try and leave as much in place as possible in terms of reopening the economy but closing down the sectors where we are seeing the cases rising."

The state's priority should be giving K-12 schools a fighting chance to reopen, according to Scarpino.

"If we're going to have a chance to do that, we need to keep the case numbers down. And that may mean making sacrifices like leaving gyms closed or imposing restrictions on the number of individuals that can be inside in indoor spaces far below what they are now."

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