28 cases of COVID-19 B117 variant confirmed in Washtenaw, Wayne counties, officials say

B117 variant spreads more quickly

A virus (WSLS)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan has confirmed 28 total cases of the COVID-19 B117 variant in Washtenaw and Wayne counties, according to state officials.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Thursday (Feb. 4) briefing that the variant remains a concern.

“This variant is more easily spread from person to person,” Khaldun said. “If this variant becomes more common, as national experts predict it could, then we could see a very rapid rise in cases and more hospitalizations and deaths.”

So far, 28 cases of the B117 variant have been identified in Michigan, all in Washtenaw and Wayne counties, Khaldun said.

“There will likely be more,” Khaldun said. “We’re working very closely with our local health departments to make sure we are aggressively identifying any potential outbreaks and slowing the spread of this variant as much as possible.”

Experts are closely following multiple variants of the virus. The B117 variant, which was traced back to the United Kingdom, has already shut down the entire University of Michigan athletic department.

A woman associated with the athletic department had traveled to the UK and returned with the variant, officials said. Over the next several days, some of her close contacts also tested positive.

The COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. appear to be effective against the variant, and there’s no evidence it causes more serious instances of the illness, according to experts.

More: Everything we know about virus variants in Michigan, US

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Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.