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To date, 23 cases of the COVID-19 variant B117 have been identified in Washtenaw County. The initial case of the B117 variant was identified on Jan 16 in the University of Michigan community. Not all subsequent cases are connected to this first case, but all remain associated with the university community. Washtenaw County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and the university are working closely to implement additional containment strategies to slow the spread of the variant.
As a part of this response, the Health Department and local partners have offered no-cost testing each weekend since the variant was identified locally. Positive COVID-19 tests from these events are being sequenced for the variant. From the Jan 24 event, no cases of the variant were identified among the positive test results. Sequencing from additional dates is still pending.
“We remain concerned about the identification of the B117 variant locally,” says Juan Luis Marquez, MD, MPH, medical director with Washtenaw County Health Department. “We are working to contain the known cluster of cases, and we ask everyone to step up their use of effective prevention strategies and seek testing if needed.”
The next no-cost, drive-thru testing event is being planned for the coming weekend and details will be confirmed as soon as possible. Positive results will be sequenced for the B117 variant. COVID-19 test results take about 72 hours. The additional sequencing will take a week or more after that time. Ongoing testing options are listed at www.washtenaw.org/covid19test or by using the statewide COVID-19 test locator.
We are still learning about the B117 variant, we know it is more contagious than COVID-19. This means the variant can spread faster, which can increase the number of people who may get seriously ill or die. Current vaccines are believed to be effective against the B117 variant.
Everyone should continue to limit possible exposures to COVID-19. Our existing science-based prevention strategies are even more important now and prevent new cases and additional hospitalizations or deaths. These strategies will help slow the spread of both COVID-19 and the B117 variant:
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