The state health department has identified 90 cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 at a prison in West Michigan.
The cases were identified through daily testing of all prisoners and staff at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia. Of the 90 new cases, 88 are prisoners and two are employees, according to a news release issued Tuesday by Michigan State Police.
The facility began daily testing last week after a case of the B.1.1.7 variant, known as the U.K. variant, was confirmed in a staff member on Feb. 8.
The testing regimen involves a daily test with a rapid test. If a rapid test result comes back positive, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is taken and sent to a state lab for testing for the variant.
Of the first set of samples sent to the state lab, 90 out of 95 were found to have the variant. More than 100 lab results were still pending as of Tuesday evening.
The variant is believed to spread more easily than other previously identified strains. Current data show that vaccines are effective against the variant.
At Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility, 705 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and 332 of those cases were active as of Tuesday. One prisoner has died.
The Michigan Department of Corrections says 122 staff at Bellamy Creek have tested positive.
Across Michigan, 25,039 state prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 930 cases are active. MDOC says 138 prisoners have died.
The department reports that 3,567 corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Four have died.
Angie Jackson covers the challenges of formerly incarcerated citizens as a corps member with Report for America. Her work is supported by The GroundTruth Project and the Hudson-Webber Foundation. Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work. Become a Free Press subscriber.