WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Seven cases of the coronavirus have been linked to a Washtenaw County woman who tested positive for a new variant of the coronavirus after taking a trip to the United Kingdom, where this variant originated, officials said Tuesday.
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, a spokeswoman for the Washtenaw County Health Department, told Patch Tuesday that it is unknown if the associated cases are also the new variant, adding that testing is still in progress.
When the state announced its first case of the new variant, known and identified by the state as B.1.1.7, it had reported that two new COVID-19 cases had been identified from close contact. The woman originally had tested negative for the coronavirus on Jan. 1 while in the U.K., prior to traveling to the U.S., according to The Detroit Free Press. She tested negative for the virus on Jan. 4 after returning to the U.S. but tested positive on Jan. 8.
B.1.1.7 is believed to be a more contagious virus. 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, officials warned.
To date, the virus has been found in at least 16 other states and jurisdictions in the U.S. Officials said that while Saturday's reporting was Michigan's first, it could be more widespread in the state.
Current tests and vaccines for COVID-19 also work against this new variant, the state said.
Michigan has reported 538,377 cases of the coronavirus since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. Of those confirmed cases, state health officials said 13,824 people have died from complications with COVID-19 while more than 442,000 people have recovered from the illness.