CLINTON COUNTY, Mich. – Michigan has confirmed its first case of another new COVID-19 variant, this one from India.
Chelsea Wuth, from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed the variant -- B.1.617 -- was found in a person in Clinton County.
The new variant found in India has two mutations in the spiky protein that the virus uses to fasten itself to cells, Dr. Rakesh Mishra told the Associated Press. Mishra is the director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, one of the 10 research institutes sequencing the virus.
He said it’s possible the genetic differences might help the virus spread more easily and escape the immune system.
This is the fourth variant of COVID-19 discovered in Michigan. The B117 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has been spreading in the state since more than a dozen cases were confirmed in January. The first case of the B.1.351 variant, from South Africa, was identified in March. The first case of the P1 variant, from Brazil, was found in Michigan earlier this month.
Michigan’s overall COVID-19 trends have slowly started to improve over the past two weeks after reaching alarming levels in March and early April.
As of this week, the statewide case rate is 493 cases per million people, the percent positivity is at 13.2% and the hospitalization rate is 19%.
“Data still indicates that we have broad community spread,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for MDHHS. “This includes spread of the more easily transmitted variants that have been identified across the entire state.”
There are more than 1,272 COVID-19 outbreaks being investigated by MDHHS in counties across Michigan.