Lansing — Ten Michigan counties now have at least one confirmed case of a COVID-19 variant that is believed to spread more quickly from person to person.
As of Monday afternoon, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 45 cases of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 in the state across the 10 counties. The variant, which emerged in the United Kingdom, is associated with more efficient and rapid transmission,according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s even more important for folks to wear masks consistently and properly, maintain social distance, and avoid indoor gatherings,” the Barry-Eaton District Health Department posted Monday on Facebook in announcing its first case of the variant in Eaton County.
Michigan confirmed its first case of the variant 23 days ago on Jan. 16. The Washtenaw County woman had recently traveled to the United Kingdom, where the variant originated, the state health department said.
Washtenaw County now has 23 confirmed variant cases, a slim majority of the 45 statewide. Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county, has the second most at eight cases.
Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties each have four cases. Charlevoix, Eaton, Kent, Macomb, Sanilac and Van Buren each have one case.
Kent County reported Sunday its first variant confirmation. SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 is approximately 50% more transmissible, leading to “faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” a press release from the Kent County Health Department said.
“Fundamentally this is a race for the coverage of our population; a race that pits vaccination efforts against the transmission of infections,” said Dr. Adam London, director of the county health department. “While we work to minimize the impact of COVID-19 infections, the B.1.1.7 variant is giving the virus increased velocity.”
The variant cases come as Michigan’s overall COVID-19 infection rates have decreased. Last week, the state reported 8,407 new cases, the lowest weekly total in 17 weeks.