Reasons for Optimism, But Medical Experts Urge Caution Over COVID Variants

As Massachusetts moves forward in its reopening, the number of cases of the coronavirus strains from the U.K. and South Africa are on the rise

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With more and more people being able to get the coronavirus vaccine, and as restrictions begin to be rolled back, there is a lot of reason to be hopeful for a return to normalcy. But medical experts say with new strains of the virus, people need to remain cautious.

Jake Flannery can't believe he'll be one the first few Celtics fans back in the stands at the TD Garden next week to watch a game in person.

"I can't wait to go, and hopefully those guys on the court can hear us," he said.

There have been no fans in Boston in more than a year.

"It's definitely going to be odd, because I anticipate being able to hear the coaches, hear the players," Flannery said.

On Monday, Massachusetts is expected to enter Step 1 of Phase 4 of its reopening, which means 12% capacity at indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks.

Flannery said he has to sign a safety waiver promising he read all of the rules and regulations and that he will wear his mask at all times.

Massachusetts' continued reopening, though, comes as reported cases of the coronavirus variants from the U.K. and South Africa continue to rise in the Bay State and across the U.S.

Dr. Michael Misialek of Newton Wellesley Hospital says the rise in variants is not unexpected.

"We've known that these variants have been present in Massachusetts," he said.

Misialek says these variants are more easily transmitted, but that the vaccines are effective against them.

He says we're also testing more now for the variants, so we are finding more cases.

"The message is that we can't let our guard down. We've come a long way and there is still the pandemic ongoing out there," he said.

Misialek says he wouldn't be surprised if the variants increase in the coming weeks.

He urges people to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands and avoid large crowds where social distancing isn't possible.

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