YPSILANTI, Mich. – A total of five cases of a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus have been identified in Michigan so far, according to health officials.
The Washtenaw County Health Department announced Saturday, Jan. 23 that a total of five cases of the virus variant, also known as B117, have been identified in county residents.
The health department is warning residents of potential exposure sites, where patrons may have came into contact with the virus variant.
Individuals who visited the following locations on Sunday, Jan. 17 are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 immediately:
The county is offering free, drive-thru COVID PCR testing on Sunday, Jan. 24 between noon and 5 p.m. at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. Interested individuals are encouraged to register for the testing online in advance, but it is not required. Learn more here.
Cases of the COVID-19 variant B117 have been identified in Washtenaw County. A total of 5 cases of the variant have been identified and additional sequencing continues for other possible cases already positive for COVID-19. (1/5) pic.twitter.com/n5xOUR5apw
Michigan’s first known case of the new strain, believed to be highly contagious and potentially more deadly, was found in a Washtenaw County woman on Jan. 16. Two additional cases were identified in two more Washtenaw County residents on Jan. 21. The three infected individuals were reportedly in close contact with one another, but officials say it is unclear if any of the five cases are tied to the first case.
“The possibility of additional spread of the variant is a concern,” says Juan Luis Marquez, MD, MPH, medical director with Washtenaw County Health Department. “At this point and with the guidance of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, we are encouraging extra precautions. Seek testing if you have symptoms, have recently been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently traveled to a place where the new variant is circulating. And everyone should make sure they are using all COVID-19 precautions consistently. This includes face masks, social distancing, hand cleaning, avoiding crowds or gatherings, and following isolation and quarantine guidance.”
The B117 variant was first identified in the U.K. at the end of 2020 and sent part of that country into a strict lockdown to help curb virus spread. The strain was first identified in the U.S. at the end of December, first in Colorado and then California. The virus variant has reportedly made its way to at least 20 states in the country so far.
Michigan officials believed it was likely that the COVID variant had already made its way into the state prior to Jan. 16.
“We have been warning people for weeks that this variant would likely be identified in the State of Michigan,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “We want everyone to understand that this variant is much more easily transmitted, and there is increased risk of rapid spread. Now is the time for people to take additional precautions and limit any potential exposures. Wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid gatherings, and make an appointment for a vaccine when it’s your turn. We all have a role to play in ending this pandemic.”
Officials say it is likely that more than five cases of the B117 strain exist in Michigan that have not yet been discovered.
To help prevent the spread of the virus, individuals are encouraged to continue practicing mitigation measures including good hygiene and frequent hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds and gatherings.
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