Michigan State details plan to deal with COVID-19 variant found on campus

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

At least one case of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7. has been confirmed in Michigan State University's campus community, the college's president said Tuesday.

The variant was identified through a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services laboratory, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a letter.

Early studies indicate the United Kingdom variant, B.1.1.7., is more contagious and may cause more severe symptoms than the original strain of the coronavirus found in Michigan a year ago.

State health department officials remain cautious as new variants B.1.1.7. and South African variant B.1.351 spread across Michigan and the U.S. The variants are identified through target testing and state officials expect there are cases of variants that have not been identified or recorded.

As of Monday, Michigan has the second-highest number of cases of the B.1.1.7. with 634 cases in 31 jurisdictions, although 380 cases are within the Michigan Department of Corrections. Florida has the most, with 738 cases of the variant.

Washtenaw County, where the variant was first discovered earlier this year, has 49 cases of B.1.1.7., Wayne County has 28 and Detroit has 12.

The variant has been found in nearly every state, with 4,690 cases recorded nationally.

Stanley said while the variant was not unexpected, it reinforces that everyone on campus should remain cautious and take precautions to prevent further spread.

"Simply put, we all must take personal responsibility and do our part to comply with all campus, city, county and state health measures. We cannot let our guard down now," Stanley wrote. 

"It is important to note that viruses are always mutating, and that process can cause a new variant to form. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been found in the U.S. and globally during this pandemic. Fortunately, research shows that the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the U.K. and other strains of the virus," he wrote.

Michigan on Tuesday added 2,048 cases and 27 deaths from COVID-19 as the state surpassed more than 3 million doses of vaccine administered.

The latest figures bring the total number of cases to 612,628 and deaths to 15,810 since the virus was first detected in March 2020.

The university will host a COVID-19 town hall at 3 p.m. on March 22.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_