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The number of coronavirus variant cases is rising in Massachusetts, and local experts are warning that quick action is needed to prevent a surge in infections.

Of particular concern is the increase in cases of the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil. Massachusetts is one of the states seeing the highest number of cases (82), following only behind Florida (84), according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Looking more broadly at the COVID-19 trends in Massachusetts, which has seen its cases, hospitalizations, and percent positivity rising, Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor in the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University and the director of Emergent Epidemics Lab, said he’s concerned about the position the state is in. He worries the state is heading into a potential surge before getting to the level of safety needed through vaccinations and the benefits of warmer weather, which is why he and others have cautioned against a speedy reopening plan for Massachusetts.

The epidemiologist said the reason for the rise in cases in Massachusetts is not necessarily the P.1 variant, rather it is likely the B.1.1.7 strain propelling the increase.

“It’s going to require even higher levels of vaccination coverage to get to any kind of herd immunity, and it also means that it’s going to spread faster than we’re used to seeing,” Scarpino told


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