‘Undetected spread in community’: COVID variant cases in Michigan rise by more than 100

422 cases of COVID-19 B117 variant confirmed in Michigan

A virus. (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP) (Hannah A. Bullock)

LANSING, Mich. – The number of the confirmed cases of a more contagious COVID-19 variant in Michigan increased by more than 100 this week, suggesting there is “undetected spread” in the community.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the state has confirmed 422 cases of the COVID-19 B117 variant.

READ: 12 takeaways from Whitmer’s March 2, 2021, COVID briefing

That number increased from 314 cases identified as of six days prior (Feb. 24).

About two-thirds of those cases have been associated with an outbreak at a correctional facility, Khaldun said.

There have been other cases of the variant identified around the case in which officials don’t know how it was transmitted, she said. That means there is likely “undetected spread occurring in the community.”

“We know the new, more easily transmitted B117 variant is present, and if that variant becomes more prevalent across the state, we could see a more rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Khaldun said.

Two of Michigan’s three critical COVID-19 metrics, improved incrementally this week.

“Our case count and positivity rates remain among the lowest in the nation,” Whitmer said.

Michigan’s case rate down to 91.2 cases per million population. Even though that’s a decline from last week, officials said the case rate is starting to plateau and is similar to what they saw at the beginning of October.

The state’s positivity rate rose for the first time in months, up to 3.7%. It was only a 0.2% increase, but Michigan officials said the change is also similar to early October.

The percentage of hospital beds with COVID-19 patients in them statewide is down to 3.9% -- a full percentage point lower than last week. That number has been steadily declining since the fall peak.

State officials said the hospitalization rate peaked at 19.6% on Dec. 4.

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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.