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90 cases of COVID-19 variant found in Ionia prison, state says

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

State health officials Tuesday reported 90 cases of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. in an Ionia prison after identifying one case last week.

Results from daily testing of prisoners and staff at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility found 88 prisoners and two employees tested positive for the variant. An additional five members of the jail tested positive for the virus, according to Michigan State Police.

Michigan’s Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia  has discovered an outbreak of the B. 1.1.7. variant.

The Michigan Department of Corrections began routine testing after an employee at the prison was found to have the variant last week, state police said.

There are more than 100 laboratory results pending with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Laboratories.

The variant is believed to be more contagious than the virus that causes COVID-19, authorities believe. 

The state has 67 cases of the virus variant B.1.1.7. in addition to the Ionia findings: 39 cases in Washtenaw County; 10 in Wayne County; four each in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties; three in Detroit; and one each in Charlevoix, Eaton, Kent, Macomb, Sanilac, St. Clair and Van Buren counties.

Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the health department, said no deaths have occurred as a result of the outbreak.

As of Tuesday, Michigan has recorded 576,264 cases resulting in 15,177 deaths from the virus since it was first detected in March.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, there are 930 active COVID-19 cases, and more than 22,500 prisoners are considered recovered. There have been 138 prisoners and four staff member deaths. 

"Since the daily testing results have come in, the number of COVID-19 positive cases at the facility has been on the decline, which indicates the swift efforts undertaken to reduce the spread is working," Michigan State Police said in a news release.

"Based on available evidence, current tests and vaccines for COVID-19 also work against this new variant. Protective actions that prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also prevent the spread of the new variant, B.1.1.7."

The first known case of the variant in Michigan was in Washtenaw County, when a UM student brought the variant from the United Kingdom on Jan. 16. It spread to stores in Ann Arbor, state and local health officials said.

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There are 1,173 cases of the variant in 40 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At 157 cases, Michigan now ranks third for the most cases of the variant nationally behind Florida (379 cases) and California (168 cases.)

Michigan has not identified any cases of the B.1.351 variant that emerged in South Africa, or the P.1. variant from Brazil.

The state is advising residents to wash hands often, continue to wear masks, stay 6 feet apart from others, ventilate indoor spaces, make a plan to get vaccinated when it is available and regularly get tested after traveling or after potential exposure.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_