157 cases of more contagious COVID-19 variant found across 12 Michigan counties

B117 variant of COVID-19 originally identified in United Kingdom

Experts are concerned about the new variant of COVID-19.
Experts are concerned about the new variant of COVID-19.

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan has confirmed 157 cases of the more contagious COVID-19 B117 variant across 12 counties in the state, officials said.

On Wednesday, during Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s briefing, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, expressed ongoing concern about B117.

READ: 11 takeaways from Gov. Whitmer’s latest COVID update

“We continue to move forward with a proactive public health response,” Khaldun said. “This means isolation, quarantine and frequent testing whenever we identify outbreaks associated with the variant.”

The B117 variant was first identified in the United Kingdom. Experts say it is more contagious than the original strand of the virus, but it doesn’t cause more serious symptoms or limit the effectiveness of the vaccine.

A person connected to the University of Michigan athletic department tested positive for the B117 variant after traveling to the UK. An outbreak in the athletic department led to a two-week shut down of U of M sports. At the time, the variant was only confirmed in Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

But since then, Michigan has confirmed cases in many other counties, Khaldun said. Not all of them are connected to people who travel to the UK, so we’ve reached a point of “community spread,” she revealed last week.

On Tuesday, officials announced 90 cases of that variant have been identified at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia.

Of those 90 cases, 88 are prisoners and two are employees, officials said. More than 100 lab results are still pending.

“Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread of this new variant, as there are possibly more cases that we don’t yet know about,” Khaldun said Wednesday.

She reemphasized the importance of wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.