WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Michigan has its first case of a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, state health officials announced Saturday.
A woman living in Washtenaw County was found to have the COVID-19 variant by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Laboratories, the state said. The person recently traveled to the United Kingdom, where this variant originated, officials said.
“The discovery of this variant in Michigan is concerning, but not unexpected,” said Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun said. “We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.
"We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often, and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn.”
Close contacts of the woman have been identified and are in quarantine, according to the state. Two new COVID-19 cases have been identified from close contacts with the woman, but it is not known if they are infected with the variant, the state said.
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.
The state reported 1,932 new COVID-19 cases and 103 more deaths Saturday. More than 442,000 people in Michigan have recovered from the virus, officials said.
Current tests and vaccines for COVID-19 also work against this new variant, the state said.