As more contagious COVID variant is detected in Washtenaw County, officials urge continued caution

The Washtenaw County Health Department has confirmed several cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant B117 in Washtenaw County.

 

Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, Washtenaw County Health Department public information officer, says while this isn't good news, it's not unexpected. At press time, 21 cases of the B117 variant have been identified and are all believed to be part of the same cluster of infection.

 

"That first case was identified promptly because we knew there was a travel connection," Ringler-Cerniglia says. "Now the question we're trying to answer is if it’s the only detection. At the same time, we have to take that action to control the cluster and try to keep it contained."

 

Since the variant is more transmissible, the health department is increasing testing and doing additional investigation for positive tests. A COVID-19 test does not indicate which variant has infected the individual, so all positive tests are analyzed to determine whether a positive case involves the B117 variant.

 

Ringler-Cerniglia encourages people to continue following safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the best protection from the B117 variant.

 

"There’s nothing that we’re recommending differently at this point because we have strategies that reduce and prevent the spread already," Ringler-Cerniglia says.

 

Additionally, those who have recently recovered from the virus or received the vaccine should continue to wear masks and follow other safety practices. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the B117 variant, Ringler-Cerniglia says, but so much is still unknown about carrying the virus and the length of immunity that it's better to be safe.

 

"It's time to reinforce doing what we know already works, and it's even more important now," Ringler-Cerniglia says. "It's not the time to let our guard down."

For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.

 

Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at emily@emilybenda.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Health Department.