Third COVID-19 variant discovered in Mid-Michigan
BAY COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has identified a third COVID-19 variant in Mid-Michigan.
The new P.1 variant, which first was identified in Japan involving travelers from Brazil, has been confirmed in one person from Bay County. That is the first known case of the P.1 variant in Michigan and about 170 cases have been confirmed nationwide.
Health officials say a woman, whose travel history is unknown, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early March and she recovered later in the month. Further testing confirmed she was infected with the P.1 variant, which the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this week.
“This is the second new variant of COVID-19 to be identified in Bay County since last week, and the rise of these new variants definitely impact the progress we have made this year with vaccinations,” said Bay County Health Department Health Officer Joel Strasz.
Bay County already has three confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, which first was identified in the United Kingdom. No cases of the B.1.351 first discovered in South Africa have been confirmed in Bay County as of Thursday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer blames the variants for increasing key COVID-19 statistics in Michigan during the month of March.
Health officials say each of the variants appears to spread more easily from person to person, but they don’t appear to cause a more serious illness or increase the chances of death. The health department says the P.1 variant spreads 2.5 times more easily than the main COVID-19 strain.
The three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States all appear to work against the variants, according to health officials.
“We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel.
She again encouraged everyone to continue wearing face coverings in public, avoiding large crowds, washing hands often and plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
“We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible,” Hertel said.
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