District Health Department No. 10 reports that the COVID-19 B117 variant has now been confirmed in four of the 10 counties within its jurisdiction. Currently, there are five cases in Kalkaska County, and one case each in Mecosta, Missaukee and Wexford counties.

The cases were identified through routine active surveillance by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

B117 appears to be more contagious, but so far there is no indication that it leads to the same clinical outcomes or disease severity as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been circulating across the United States for more than a year. However, a higher rate of transmission could increase the number of people who need to be hospitalized or who die due to COVID-19 should the new variant begin circulating widely in Michigan.

To date, the variant was identified in 51 states and jurisdictions in the U.S., with 986 cases in Michigan as of March 25. Michigan is one of only two states with more than 750 cases of the variant. Florida is the other state, currently with 1,042 cases.

“Now is definitely not the time to relax our prevention efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19” said Kevin Hughes, Health director of the health department. “As new cases are climbing and we are all-hands-on-deck to get our residents vaccinated, we urge you to get tested if you have symptoms, and do not wait to hear from us before you isolate if you test positive.”

Important precautions include:

• getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when available and eligible;

• wearing a mask covering your nose and mouth when around others;

• staying 6 feet apart from others;

• washing hands often; and

• ventilating indoor spaces

Those who have symptoms of COVID-19, have been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently have traveled are encouraged to get tested. Find testing locations at www.mi.gov/coronavirustest or by calling 211 or the COVID-19 hotline at (888) 535-6136, and press 1.

Email the health department at covid@dhd10.org with questions about the variant.

For more COVID-19 vaccine information, visit www.dhd10.org/covid-19-vaccine.

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