First case of COVID-19 variant confirmed in Kalamazoo County, officials say

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
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Kalamazoo County has confirmed its first case of a COVID-19 variant, health officials said Thursday.

B.1.1.7. was identified in a resident older than 80 with no travel history, the county Health & Community Services Department said in a statement.

"At this time, public health is conducting contact tracing and disease investigation to identify close contacts," according to the release. "All close contacts will be quarantined for 14 days and encouraged to get tested for COVID-19."

The variant was identified through "a proactive submission of samples from our healthcare partners to the state public health laboratory," and more cases could follow, the department said.

More cases could be found in county, officials said Thursday.

County officials noted the variant can spread easily, is believed to be more contagious and has been identified in more than 30 other states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 611 B.1.1.7 cases nationwide as of Thursday. 

“The identification of the B.1.1.7 variant in Kalamazoo County underscores the importance of our community wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding social gatherings, washing our hands, getting tested for COVID and getting vaccinated,” said Dr. William Nettleton, medical director at the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department.

Kalamazoo County health officials urge residents to get tested to slow the spread of any virus variant in the county, which through Thursday reported nearly 14,400 positive COVID cases and 311 deaths. Testing site and COVID-19 information is available at www.kalcounty.com/covid19.

The coronavirus variant was first reported in Michigan on Jan. 16 and traced to retail stores in Ann Arbor, officials said. It has also been reported in Wayne County.

Last week, the University of Michigan and the Washtenaw County Health Department recommended students living on and off the Ann Arbor campus stay home to curb the spread of the strain, which was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the state on Thursday added 1,358 new coronavirus cases and 74 deaths.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Michigan to 565,251 and total deaths to 14,778 since the virus was first detected in March, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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