Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, revealed Tuesday that the state has confirmed 45 cases of the COVID-19 B117 variant across 10 Michigan counties.
“While our numbers continue to trend overall in the right direction, I’m very concerned about what we are seeing with the new B117 variant,” Khaldun said. “While this variant first appeared in the (United Kingdom), the cases we are seeing in Michigan have not all been associated with someone who had a history of traveling, which means the variant is likely in the general community.”
“We are in a race, as I’ve said,” Whitmer said. “There are variants that are now present and that we have got to be concerned (about).”
Even though the B117 variant isn’t believed to cause more serious complications from COVID-19, it spreads more easily and could cause another spike in cases.
“If these become the dominant viruses going around, what’s the likelihood that we could go back to more lockdowns of restaurants and other public gatherings?” a reporter asked Whitmer.
You can listen to the full question, as well as the response from Whitmer and Khaldun, in the video below.
“No one wants to go back, take steps backward,” Whitmer said. “That’s why we’re asking everyone to keep doing their part. The B117 variant, the other variants that we’ve seen around the globe -- we still know that they can’t pass person-to-person if we wear our masks, we socially distance and we wash our hands.
“We still know how to beat these viruses and these variants of this virus if we continue to do that, but we are in a race to get these vaccines into arms, and that’s why the resources in that Michigan COVID recovery plan are so crucial in this moment. It’s a race, and we want to continue leading in this race, and we need to get those resources there.”
Khaldun said the state’s contact tracing and testing are in good shape because cases have decreased, so there are plenty of contact tracers and antigen tests available at the moment.
“Of course I’m concerned, but as the governor said, masks, social distancing, washing hands -- those things work,” Khaldun said. “We have revved up our public health response, and I’m confident in what we’ve done with our local health departments and other places where we’ve seen these outbreaks.”
On Tuesday, Michigan announced its lowest single-day case total since Sept. 22, and it was the first time the state has announced fewer than 1,000 cases since Oct. 6.
The number of new COVID-19 cases was 563. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has confirmed 569,980 COVID-19 cases and 14,965 virus-related deaths.