ANN ARBOR, MI — The Washtenaw County Health Department announced Saturday that it is aware of a possible public exposure to the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7.
A total of five cases of the variant have been identified and additional sequencing continues for other possible cases already positive for COVID-19, according to the Jan. 23 news release from the health department.
Officials say brief, public exposures are not normally a COVID-19 exposure concern but the B.1.1.7. variant is more easily transmitted and could lead to more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Washtenaw health leaders are recommending immediate COVID-19 testing for anyone in the following locations at the specified times:
- Sunday, Jan. 17 at the Meijer on Ann Arbor Saline Rd., Ann Arbor MI from 9 to 10 a.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 17 at Briarwood Mall, 100 Briarwood Circle, Ann Arbor MI from 1 to 2 p.m.
The initial case of the B.1.1.7. variant was identified Jan 16 in the University of Michigan community, according to the release. It is not clear if all subsequent cases are connected to this first case.
“The possibility of additional spread of the variant is a concern,” said Juan Luis Marquez, MD, MPH, medical director with Washtenaw County Health Department.
“At this point and with the guidance of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, we are encouraging extra precautions. Seek testing if you have symptoms, have recently been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently traveled to a place where the new variant is circulating. And everyone should make sure they are using all COVID-19 precautions consistently. This includes face masks, social distancing, hand cleaning, avoiding crowds or gatherings, and following isolation and quarantine guidance.”
While believed to be more contagious, there has been no indication that B.1.1.7 affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
The Washtenaw County Health Department, MDHHS and the University of Michigan are working closely to implement additional containment strategies to slow the spread of the variant, the release states.