314 cases of more contagious COVID variant identified across 19 Michigan counties

Cases of B117 variant double in last seven days

A virus

LANSING, Mich. – The more contagious variant of COVID-19 has exactly doubled in Michigan over the past seven days, as there are now 314 confirmed cases across 19 counties.

Those numbers are according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Wednesday, Michigan had confirmed 157 cases of the variant across 12 counties, Khaldun said. Seven days later, the state is up to 314 cases across 19 counties.

“There are possibly more that we have not yet identified,” Khaldun said. “Models and national experts predict that this new variant could be the dominant one in the United States by the end of March.”

READ: 12 takeaways from Gov. Whitmer’s Feb. 24 COVID-19 briefing

The first cases of the variant found in the state were within the University of Michigan athletic department. At that time, cases of the variant were contained to Washtenaw and Wayne counties, but now B117 has been confirmed in residents not connected to that situation.

That suggests community spread of the variant, Khaldun said.

Though it isn’t believed to cause more serious cases or affect approved vaccines, the B117 variant is known to be more contagious than the original COVID strand. Officials are worried it will cause a spike in overall cases and therefore spark a rise in Michigan’s metrics.

“The good news is, the same basic public health measures that we’ve been talking about -- masks, social distancing, washing hands and getting a vaccine when it is your turn -- those things slow the spread of the new variants, as well,” Khaldun said.

The state has otherwise reported promising COVID-19 trends. On Wednesday, Khaldun revealed the case rate has dropped below 100 cases per million population in the state, and the percent positivity and hospitalization rate both continue to decline.

As a result, Michigan officials are expecting to further re-engage the economy in the “coming days,” but they said they are keeping a close eye on the spread of this variant.

About the Author:

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.