The state should take these numbers as evidence that it is time to undo the reopening, said Samuel Scarpino, an epidemiologist at Northeastern University.
“In some cases we don’t see a big increase. What we see are signs that an increase is imminent, ”said Scarpino. “Given the challenge of intervening and slowing the spread of COVID-19, the measures we are taking now will decide whether we risk a situation like returning to April or a situation that is far more manageable.”
Scarpino advocated “at least” returning to the second phase of phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, which would mean closing down a number of entertainment venues, including gyms, casinos, and cinemas. Phase 2 was carried out in two steps. The earlier move, which started on June 8, reopened outdoor restaurants and some retail stores, as well as childcare and day camps. On June 22, indoor restaurants and personal services, including nail salons and tattoo parlors, were added to the list. Phase 3, which began in most states on July 6, enabled more indoor entertainment.
The head of the Massachusetts Medical Society said last week that the state should seriously consider opening gyms, indoor restaurants, and casinos if the state wants to keep infection rates low as it reopens schools in the fall.
“I would rather act too early than too late,” said Dr. David Rosman, president and vice president of the Society for Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Globe last week. “Our priority should be children, school and health. We should focus on that. “
For weeks, Massachusetts went through Governor Charlie Baker’s reopening plan without experiencing the spikes in infection that many other states have seen. But now that new cases are on the rise and the state’s average seven-day test positive rate is more than 2 percent for the first time since June, health professionals and residents alike are looking for answers.
“I’m not ready to say that there is a clear trend that things are getting out of control,” said Dr. Barry Bloom, professor and former dean of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. But Bloom said the state should consider reversing the course on reopening if the positive rate continues to rise.
“What we want to be is about 1 [percent]. We are now at 2.2. I would say that the absolute limit, which means that we really lost the ability to track things, would be 5 percent and I would start turning things off at 2.5 or 3, ”said Bloom. “It’s much easier to shut things down when the numbers are low.”
Bloom added that new bans could be targeted if the state refined their test and contact tracking data to find patterns of outbreaks. Scarpino agreed. “I would encourage the governor to pinpoint where the cases come from and the indicators they track,” he said. “Are [new cases] Do they come from the house parties we read about, or do they come from the casino floors, the gyms and the food in the house? “
At the time the state released its reopening plan in May, some epidemiologists expressed concerns that it did not include specific standards for increasing the number of cases, the rate of positivity, or other metrics that would trigger new bans.
Regarding the cause of the growing number of cases, Baker said in several press conferences last week that large gatherings were responsible for multiple bundled outbreaks across the state and that parties without forced social detachment described it as a “recipe for disaster.” However, the state has not indicated how many new cases have been attributed to assemblies, or has provided other explanations for the increasing number of cases.
The Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.