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COVID-19 variant case reported in Kent County

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Michigan health officials reported a COVID-19 variant case Sunday in Kent County, the third county in the state to have a confirmed infection publicly tied to the more contagious variant of the virus.

SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 is approximately 50% more transmissible, leading to "faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths," a press release from the Kent County Health Department said.

“Fundamentally this is a race for the coverage of our population; a race that pits vaccination efforts against the transmission of infections," said Dr. Adam London, director of the county health department. “While we work to minimize the impact of COVID-19 infections, the B.1.1.7 variant is giving the virus increased velocity."

An image from an electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (NIAID-RML/Zuma Press/TNS)

The health department's press release did not include additional information on the Kent County resident who was confirmed to have the variant. The department is encouraging testing of individuals who have traveled outside of Michigan in the last 14 days, especially to areas in which the new variants are widely circulating.

Michigan reported its first case of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7., on Jan. 16 in Washtenaw County.

On Thursday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said there were 28 confirmed variant cases in Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

"If this variant becomes more common, as national experts predict it could, then we could see a very rapid rise in cases and more hospitalizations and deaths," Khaldun said during a press conference.

The variant cases come as Michigan's overall COVID-19 infection rates have decreased. Last week, the state report 8,407 new cases, the lowest weekly total in 17 weeks.

The variant first emerged in the United Kingdom in September, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This variant is associated with more rapid transmission, but there is no evidence to suggest the variant has any impact on vaccine effectiveness, according to the CDC. The federal agency is reviewing data to determine whether it's deadlier.

cmauger@detroitnews.com