Health department: Genesee Co. likely has much more than 6 COVID-19 variant cases

The U.K. variant is known to spread much quicker from person to person.
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:13 PM EST
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GENESEE CO., Mich. (WJRT) - (3/11/2021) - The U.K. variant of COVID-19 is in Genesee County. The Health Department confirmed six cases Thursday.

But these six people tested positive for coronavirus between February 1st and 22nd.

So ABC12 asked the County Health Department how much higher the actual case count could be right now.

It’s an answer the Department can’t easily give due to how the sample testing is conducted.

But, because this U.K. variant is known to spread from person to person much quicker, Genesee County’s Deputy Health Officer said there are likely more than just the six confirmed cases right now.

“Just because all samples are not sent down for genotyping,” Kayleigh Blaney explained.

That’s the process that tests for the U.K. variant. Blaney said it’s done at state laboratories or the CDC. But genotyping is very time consuming and expensive, so in Michigan only 10-percent of the positive COVID-19 samples are sent to be tested.

“Which is pretty high for a state,” she said. “So we actually have very good surveillance in terms of how many are being genotyped in Michigan. So our state lab in conjunction with the CDC types the positive samples that come in.”

Another way Blaney said the Department is keeping an eye on the U.K. variant’s transmission is watching the County’s case count

“If we start to see case counts rising at a higher level, that’s also possibly an indication that the variant might be more prevalent than what we’re detecting based on the genotyping,” she said.

Taking a look at the positive cases for the U.K. variant in Genesee County, the Department shared the six people are 4 men and 2 women between the ages of 30 and 80-years-old.

None of them are related. They actually all live in 6 different zip codes, meaning the cases are spread throughout Genesee County.

Two people are hospitalized.

And while they’re still investigating the cases, Blaney mentioned they do know at least one person traveled somewhere in the United States before testing positive.

“So obviously we know with a sample having been collected at the beginning of February, that obviously that person in the beginning of February had to have gotten it from someone. So that gives us some information about the fact that there’s at least been low level transmissions since then,” she said.

A reminder from the Department, the same safety measures should be used to protect yourself from the U.K. variant --- washing your hands, wearing a mask and avoiding large gatherings.

The Deputy Health Officer said data also shows all three COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant.

So Blaney’s encouraging everyone to sign up on as many vaccination lists as you can to get the shots when you’re eligible.

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